Ali’s latest gaffe attracts ridicule over landlord licensing

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

Under pressure: Hamida Ali

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.

Balanced: former Corbyn adviser Andrew Fisher provided a reasoned summary

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.

Hardball: MHCLG has judged Croydon’s landlord licensing scheme application as inadequate

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


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to Ali’s latest gaffe attracts ridicule over landlord licensing

  1. Chris Borasinski says:

    What the council seem not to understand is that, along with govt.anti-landlord policies, licensing will drive yet more private landlords out of the PRS. And as for complaining about “rent controls” then those inevitably also shrink private rental availability.
    And when private landlords retreat from the sector, the govt. AND council will have to pick up the shortfall. Be careful what you wish for Croydon Council.

  2. Alison Butler and Paul Scott are still serving councillors – why can’t they explain to the public why Croydon Council does not have a coherent housing strategy?

    They can also explain what they’ve been doing over the last ten years?

  3. therowlandfamily@mac.com says:

    So far I’ve paid £10,500 in licence fees over the last two years and not one inspection – not that they would find anything – this was essentially another tax for no service at all. Im glad its gone.

  4. Andrew Fisher said that licensing created funding to enable inspections. That’s somewhat misleading as it implies that without the landlord tax, this didn’t happen. Back in 2008 a council report under the Tories said there were around 800 inspections of private rented housing a year, made on tenants’ request.

    At the weekend Marzia Nicodemi asked Fisher on Twitter how many properties were ever checked before licensing and how many rogue landlords were prosecuted. He ducked those questions in his reply.

    Some answers can, as you’d expect, be found on Inside Croydon. As reported in 2017 under the headline “Landlord licensing scheme made one prosecution in a year”, for the estimated £6million raised from the borough’s private landlords, it made just a single “prohibition order” in 12 months.

    The iC report added that there were 806 inspections of council-owned homes. Oddly enough there were 184 Category 1 hazards – of a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety – found in the council stock.

    All the failings of the council properties were reported to contractors to carry out repairs – according to the council. The same council that was found to be incapable of managing a private repairs and maintenance contractor and in dealing with a 4-year long water leak.

    At the time Alison Butler, Croydon’s arrogant, overpromoted incompetent slum landlady said, “the scheme is working well”. It wasn’t working well then and as we know now, it wasn’t working when the scheme ran out last year and the Regina Road residents’ concerns were still being ignored.

    Somebody once wrote “Labour needs some soul searching, honest debate and reflection. Sadly these are too often squeezed out by tribal loyalty to past leaders or factional in-fighting.” So long as the author, Andrew Fisher, tries to gloss over Croydon Labour’s appaling mismanagement of the council and says nothing critical about the people who did it, he’s part of the problem.

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