The not-so-selective licensing scheme
27/09/2014 08:24:00......Posted by Tim Pollard
On Thursday I attended a Public Meeting at the Hilton in Dingwall Road organised by the National Landlords Association, along with a number of other Conservative councillors, to discuss Labour's proposal to license landlords. Sadly there were no Labour councillors there to defend their proposal, as neither the cabinet member responsible (Alison Butler), nor her deputy, nor any other member of the Labour group was apparently free to attend. Around 100 people were present including many landlords and tenants, who will be a victim of Labour's planned tenant tax.
There was a rational discussion about the likely impact of the interestingly named 'Selective Licencing Scheme'. Of course, it's not selective - every private landlord in Croydon will have to pay £200 per property per year and the council would like the whole lot up front for a five year period. These licensing schemes are allowed in law, although the law (as the name suggests) was intended to allow selective schemes which only applied in two circumstances: that there was evidence linking crime or anti-social behaviour to a specific area with many private rented properties or where there is low demand for private rented accommodation (plainly not the case in Croydon).
The law also requires that the fee charged can only be used to fund the administration of the scheme. That's why many of the 70 boroughs who have introduced the scheme (of which 69 are Labour-controlled) are charging in the order of £50 per year (which is sufficiently modest for most landlords to probably not seek to pass on to tenants). At £200, Croydon's charge will be amongst the most expensive in the country - so either the council is the least efficient borough or they are blatantly profiteering!
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen if this scheme goes ahead: landlords who make the payment will simply pass the cost on to their tenants. Lest we be accused of scaremongering, the Council admits this, though the admission is buried 19 pages into its report (“tenants may...be impacted by an increase in their housing costs as landlords seek to pass on some or all of the costs of licensing through higher rent levels”). At a national level, the Labour Party is arguing for the re-introduction of controls to stop rents increasing (a policy which, like many of Ed Miliband’s ideas, is superficially attractive, but which evidence from around the world shows would inevitably lead to fewer homes to rent and therefore higher rents in the medium term), but locally Croydon Labour Party is pursuing a policy which it admits will increase rents.
So why is our Labour Council doing this?
Well, it gives two reasons.
First, it says it wants to reduce flytipping and other forms of anti-social behaviour - a laudable aim. It claims that these problems are “commonly associated with poorly managed, overcrowded and low quality private rented accommodation”. Even if this is true, it would suggest that the Council should be doing something about poorly managed, overcrowded and low quality private rented accommodation, not taxing the whole sector. And it is very difficult to judge from the Council’s report whether it is true - little evidence is provided and what is said undermines rather than supports this claim (for example, the report says the private rented sector in the borough is growing rapidly but most forms of anti-social behaviour are declining and it also includes data which suggests that there is little correlation between the size of the private rented sector in different parts of the borough and the levels of anti-social behaviour in those areas).
Second, the Council says it wants to improve the quality of the housing in the private rented sector - another laudable aim. But again, the evidence in its report, both from within Croydon and from other London boroughs that have introduced Selective Licensing, suggests that most properties in the sector are in a reasonable state of repair. There are over 30,000 households in Croydon living in private rented accommodation: last year, the Council received 1,371 complaints (some households probably made multiple complaints so the number of properties complained about is probably lower than that, but set against that there are undoubtedly some tenants who don’t complain because their landlord makes it clear that they will evict them if they do). The London Borough of Newham has introduced Selective Licensing and registered 20,500 landlords, but has so far only banned 18, prosecuted 243 and cautioned 136.
In other words, all the evidence suggests that it is a minority of landlords that are causing the problem, not the whole sector. So why is our Labour Council taxing all landlords right across the borough (a tax which law-abiding landlords will pay but those causing the problems will try to avoid), rather than using powers it already has to take action against those landlords who are not maintaining and managing their properties properly?
Answer: because this tax is predicted to raise over £4.5 million, much of which will fund enforcement action the Council is already taking. It is a classic Labour stealth tax, in this case targeted at the people who are least able to pay (private sector rental tenants).
If you want to increase Council spending, you should have the honesty to make the case for higher Council Tax bills. To introduce a tax on landlords which you know is going to lead to some of the most vulnerable people in society facing even higher rents is beneath contempt.
Interstingly, it transpires that the Government is currently consulting on whether it should stop councils from introducing borough-wide Selective Licensing schemes. It is surprising to say the least that the Council's report made no mention of this.
You can read the Government's consultation paper here (pages 17-18) but this is the key section:
"A major drawback of licensing is that it impacts on all landlords and places additional burdens on reputable landlords who are already fully compliant with their obligations....The majority of landlords provide a good service and the Government does not want to impose unnecessary additional costs on them or tenants who may see their rents rise as landlord costs rise...The Government does not support the use of licensing across an entire local authority area. Such an approach is disproportionate...we believe that it goes against the policy intention of the original legislation (Housing Act 2004) which was designed to tackle problems in specific and strictly defined parts of a local authority area."
St Edmund's Church - Riddlesdown
03/12/2019 09:48:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
STATEMENT TO LOCAL COUNCILLORS AND RIDDLESDOWN RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION ON THE FUTURE OF ST EDMUND’S CHURCH
The Community of St Edmund’s has concluded, with much sadness, that continuing as an independent worshipping congregation within the parish of Sanderstead is no longer viable and that a new future must be found for the building. Regular Sunday worship will cease at Christmas.
But St Edmund’s is NOT CLOSING. Christian worship and other activities will continue, the former in a different form to be determined as soon as possible.
The buildings will continue to be available for community use, as now. Contacts and administrative arrangements will change but otherwise things will remain unchanged. Indeed, we are hoping for an enhanced community role, as well as the continuing religious one, for St Edmund’s following the refurbishment of the William Goddard Room, generously financed by our local councillors.
We are holding a celebration of the past – and future – life of St Edmund’s on Sunday 16th February, to which all in the community will be welcome. Details will follow but, if you would like to come, you may wish to make a note in your diary.
Cherry Trees and Litter Pick - Cherry Tree Green
30/11/2019 11:55:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
It was great to see the newly planted cherry trees on Cherry Tree Green. Local residents led by Marianne Daniels from the newly formed Friends of Green Spaces organised a litter pick and was joined by membrs of the Sanderstead Residents Association, Mandy Ashton from Priscillas, local scout leader Janice and local councillors to ensure the green and area looked ship-shape. I can't wait to see them in the spring.
Fire - 3 West Hill - New Flats
27/11/2019 10:00:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
A fire broke out this morning at the site of 3 West Hill, the new development on the corner of Sanderstead Road. The fire started in the basement of the building and a crew from four fire engines quickly extinguished the fire. The cause of the fire is being investigated. I am pleased that no one was hurt.
Cherry Trees for Cherry Tree Green
25/11/2019 15:41:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
Sanderstead is marking a week-long national celebration of trees by planting 20 new cherry trees. Ten new trees have been planted on Cherry Tree Green in Hamsey Green, as part of an initiative to plant 3,500 trees in the borough by 2023, and a further ten are set to be planted in coming weeks.
The site was suggested by local resident Marianne Daniels, who is part of the new Friends of Green Spaces Group. She has been working with me and council officers on a number of initiatives in the locality.
They were planted just ahead of National Tree Week which sees a nationwide campaign to plant 1,000,000 trees.
Marianne said: “I am really delighted Croydon Council has supported my request to plant trees on Cherry Tree Green. The four different colours of cherry trees will be a welcome splash of colour.
“We will be holding a community litter pick on Saturday 30 November at 10.30am in order to tidy up the green followed by an informal photo at 11am. Litter picking equipment will be provided.
Do come and join the litter pick and see the newly planted trees on the green. Whilst the rain may not be ideal weather for a litter pick the trees will certainly enjoy it!
Christmas Light Switch On - The Gruffy - Saturday, 30 November 2019 - 4.30 pm
22/11/2019 15:21:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
The Xmas Lights Switch On will take place on Saturday, 30 November 2019 at 4.30 pm on The Gruffy around the Xmas Tree. The star and the tree will be the first to be lit with the rest of the lights in the high street following. It is hoped that santa, even though extremely busy, will be able to do this alongside All Saints Church choir who will be singing carols around the tree. It is the start of the festive season and we wish everyone a Merry Xmas. The Sanderstead councillors have funded the lights and switch on from their community budget.
Hamsey Green Pond
19/11/2019 13:20:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
I was pleased to meet with The newly formed Friends of Sanderstead Recreation Ground and Green Spaces alongside The Conservation Volunteers to look further at how the pond can be improved. There is still much work to do around the boundary which is full of ivy. The pond itself is now quite over grown with plants and parrot weed. The edges need to be reformed and planting needs to be reintroduced in some locations. I am pleased that both the volunteers and TCV are taking action and look forward to seeing the fruits of their work.
Solar Powered Bollard - Court Hill/Brian Avenue
13/11/2019 19:35:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
Residents may be interested to know that the council is no longer repairing solar powered bollards. I only found this out after reporting a broken solar powered bollard on Court Hill and Brian Avenue.
This is the response I have received:
Our investigations shows that the above Solar self-righting traffic bollard was installed over 5 years ago, however, since then the Department of Transport in 2016 has relaxed the lighting requirement for traffic bollards and some other signs. The motivation for this was in a bid to reduce energy usage and light pollution at a national level.
It is useful to note that all self-righting traffic bollards installed in the last 10 years are made up of retroreflective (reflect light back to the source and thereby increase visibility to approaching vehicles) materials. For this reason there is no requirement for the highway authority to reinstate the solar illumination part of the traffic bollard.
To replace or repair the existing solar traffic bollard the Council has to pay nearly £600 per unit which is difficult to justify because of the current economic challenges.
I appreciate that this is not the answer your constituent may be looking for on this matter, however, we need to apply a stricter control over finances and prioritise the resources available to us in a way that achieves the most benefit for the borough.
Notwithstanding this I have instructed our cleansing team to thoroughly clean the traffic bollard to ensure its retroreflectivity is maximised.
All I can say is it is very disappointing.
SES Water - Poor Road Repairs - Mitchley Avenue
05/11/2019 07:20:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
Residents in Sanderstead are extremely fed up with the poor quality road repairs undertaken by utility companies. So much so that one has written to the MD of SES Water to elevate their complaint in respect of repairs in Mitchley Avenue. I too have taken up the issue with the director at the council and asked that they ensure that any company undertaking work.here is of good quality and that the roads and pathways are reinstated to a good quality. A number of potholes here in the pictures are attributed to the utility companies.
Berlin Wall - Fronting Sanderstead Road - Corner of West Hill
31/10/2019 20:18:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
Many residents will have noticed a very large concrete wall appear on the corner of Sanderstead Road and West Hill where one of the new blocks of flats has been built. It appears that there has been no approval given for this retaining wall which is close to the very narrow footpath. Not only is the dreadful "Berlin" wall ugly but it prevents the planning condition applied to plant large trees along the boundary. This is extremely distressing and not appreciated by residents who have already had to contend with a number of issues such as a blocked road, noisy work over the week-end and dirt and filth spilling onto the pavement. I am assured by the head of planning that he is going to take action to rectify this matter. The loss of the tree lined canopy, a natural characteristic of Sanderstead Road must be replaced.
Cherry Tree Green - Hamsey Green Pond
25/10/2019 16:03:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
I have been working with the newly formed Sanderstead Friend's group in respect of the tree planting for Cherry Tree Green. A variety of white, pale and darker pink Cherry trees will be planted in the last week of November. We held a recent meeting in Priscillas to see how we could take forward through the council some of the brilliant ideas put forward by residents at the recent community day.
Also a meeting is pencilled in to see how work at Hamsey Green pond can be further progressed with local residents and the Conservation Volunteers.
It is all very exciting and I am pleased that residents are so enthusiastic about our important green spaces.