CROYDON IN CRISIS: Council leader reacts with dismay at loss of £20m in licence fees, as Labour councillors question lack of support from their new chief executive. By STEVEN DOWNES
Hamida Ali, the council leader, opened herself up again to widespread ridicule over the weekend when she responded to the news that the government had rejected her Labour-controlled authority’s application to extend its landlord licensing scheme when she said, “We’ll do everything in our power to protect residents.”
Many respondents to Ali’s tweet mentioned two words: “Regina” and “Road”, where tenants in dozens of council flats with water leaks, black mould and multiple other shortcomings had their complaints ignored, in some cases for four years.
Inside Croydon broke the news on Friday of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s decision to end Croydon’s controversial landlord licensing scheme, a pet project of Ali’s erstwhile close colleague, Alison Butler, when she was the council’s cabinet member for housing.
In response to an application for a renewal which had taken the council a year to prepare, Croydon received the rejection letter from Secretary of State Robert Jenrick on June 7. One week on, the council has still not managed to make any formal statement over the Minister’s decision.
Ali’s lone tweet is the only admission of her council’s latest failure.
“Appalling decision by [government] to turn down renewing our landlord licensing scheme,” Ali wrote. “With 1-in-5 residents in Croydon in rented housing, it was vital in safeguarding decent conditions. We’ll do everything in our power to protect residents but the Tories aren’t on the side of renters.”
The decision means that Croydon Council will be missing the £20million-plus income from licensing fees over the next four years, as it battles to drag itself out of the borough’s bankruptcy caused by Butler, the discredited Tony Newman and their cabal.
Never keen to take responsibility for their own faults and errors, over the weekend some in the Town Hall Labour group which Newman, Butler & Co had dominated for more than a decade expressed their displeasure with Katherine Kerswell, the council’s new chief exec, for failing to use her “influence” with the government to deliver a licensing scheme renewal.
Among the reasons given by the MHCLG for rejecting Croydon’s application was that the council had failed to include anything resembling a coherent housing strategy with its proposition.
An MHCLG spokesperson told Inside Croydon, “By law, all landlords must ensure properties are fit for people to live in and that is why we have given all councils stronger tools to crack down on rogue landlords, including fines of up to £30,000 and banning orders.
“Croydon Council’s application for selective licensing designation was carefully assessed and judged not to have provided sufficient evidence for these extended powers.”
The Ministry added that councils can send a new application if they have been rejected.
Of course, there is more than a sense that the private renters of Croydon are being used as the ball in a game of political ping-pong between Whitehall and south London. Jenrick, after all, hardly has an unstained reputation in office himself.
As Andrew Fisher, Jeremy Corbyn’s former policy adviser and South Norwood resident put it after reading Inside Croydon’s report, “Corrupt housing and local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, has blocked the extension of Croydon’s landlord licensing scheme – bad news for tenants, residents and the council’s finances…
“Licensing created funding to enable inspections. And there have been some prosecutions (though probably not enough).”
Questioned on social media about Croydon Council’s own appalling record as landlords, Fisher identified “two separate issues”. Fisher tweeted that these were, “The failure of the council and the outsourcing company to repair and maintain council housing. And the denial by the government of the council’s ability to regulate private rentals.”
Read more: After 3-month delay, council calls in surveyors for Regina Road
Read more: Council’s landlord licensing scheme can’t cope with workload
Read more: Investigation into housing scandal finds systemic failure and incompetence
Read more: Only 10% of council housing repair jobs ever get checked
Read more: Ali accused of cover-up over findings on council flats scandal
- You can support Inside Croydon’s news-breaking independent local journalism. Sign up today as a subscriber. Click here
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named the country’s rottenest borough in 2020 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine – the fourth successive year that Inside Croydon has been the source for such award-winning nominations
- Inside Croydon: 3million page views in 2020. Seen by 1.4million unique visitors