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Labour wants councils to have more powers over private rental sector

Labour's housing spokesman has called on the government to give councils greater powers over the regulation of the private rental sector.

In an article in The Guardian John Healey - along with Sir Robin Wales, the Labour mayor of Newham council in London - says schemes suggested by some local councils to have greater licensing and policing powers over letting agents and landlords are being dismissed by the government.

"In 2015, the government curtailed local authorities’ powers to introduce landlord licensing schemes and required them to be approved by the secretary of state. Newham’s scheme is up for renewal and there is a very real danger that the government may veto it" they write.

The article offers enormous praise to Newham, which under its current licensing powers has prosecuted more than 1,215 landlords and have given 25 letting agencies penalty charge notices or other legal penalties.

"Through Newham’s landlord licensing scheme, a significant number of landlords are of interest to HMRC because of potential discrepancies between declared rental income and Newham’s records" write Healey and Sir Robin. 

They claim that Newham’s licensing scheme commands widespread support from residents, the local police, fire services, neighbouring boroughs and the mayor of London - yet they also say the government appears to be unenthusiastic in extending the powers to other authorities or allowing Newham to continue with its policies. 

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