Selective Licensing public consultation
27/11/2014 18:16:00......Posted by Mario Creatura
On Thursday 27th November the Council held a public consultation on their Selective Licensing proposals. I've written and spoken at length about why I believe it would be a regressive step for our Labour Council to implement this, so I won't go over old ground.
Held in the Croydon Conference Centre on Surrey Street, I wasn't expecting it to be particularly fiery or controversial. Boy was I wrong. The invigilator had no sooner started explaining their consultation methodology than members of the audience were taking issue with its premise. There are approximately 30,000 private sector landlords that the Council knows about. When the audience heard that just over 900 had received postal invitations to respond to the consultation, many reacted with derision. Many asked the valid question: if the Council can find us to collect our Council Tax, why can't they find us to ask for our views on private sector rentals?
The central tennet of the Opposition's argument is that the Selective License (which is not 'selective' as it's pan-borough) will lead to an increase in private sector rents. Around two thirds of those in the consultation room were landlords and corroborated this logical view. Cllr Alison Butler, attacked on all sides for her policy, maintained that they were wrong and there was no reason why they should pass the additional cost onto their tenants. She seems to have forgotten that she admitted they would likely do this a few weeks earlier to the Croydon Advertiser.
Legal arguments were demolished, moral positions were eviscerated, financial implications were exposed. Some 86% of the respondants to the first consultation opposed the Selective Licensing scheme. So strong was the reaction against it that the second consultation (ostensibly for tenants) altered the policy question. Inititally it asked for views on a borough-wide selective licensing scheme. The second consultation now asks for the preference of four options: full scheme, ward-specific scheme; London Rental Standard or no implementation.
The National Landlord Association representative there stressed that they were not against Selective Licensing in Principle. It suggested that a fifth option should be considered: that the scheme should be enacted in single roads where significant deprivation and high concentrations of poor-quality private rented stock occur. I do wonder whether this shift in policy is a sign that the new Labour administration is preparing to subtly drop this ill-thought out policy.
One surprising outcome from the meeting that I wasn't expecting: the sheer number of landlords who said they would sell their properties and leave the borough was astounding. These aren't Fagin-like, Ebenezzer-esque figures hoarding their money and punishing hard-working tenants. Many of them elderly residents who wisely planned their finances to supplement their incomes or pensions. Normal people will be affected by this policy, be they regular residents who are trying to support themselves in an unstable economy or the tenants who already have to cope with exhorbitant rents having to manage with rents increased the will of their own landlords.
I maintain my position from my maiden speech tand ask the Council to please reconsider this scheme and the premise behind it, revise it and to do what’s in the best interests of struggling tenants.