Following May’s Judicial Review!

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A brief summary following May’s Judicial Review.

On 13th June 2011 Hyndburn Landlords (HLA) wrote to HBC expressing disappointment at the need for judicial review and requesting a meeting with the leader to discuss future steps.

The deputy leader, Claire Pritchard responded and ageed a meeting with the head of housing and regeneration (Mark Hoyle), herself and HLA; this meeting took place on the 27th July 2011. HLA were assured that the council were intending to reflect fully on the outcome of the JR, that they were looking to retreat to consider all alternatives and that they had no intention of returning straight to a selective licensing scheme.

At the first cabinet meeting after this on the 14th September, item 21 – Private Landlords AND SELECTIVE LICENSING! (http://www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/site/scripts/meetings_info.php?meetingID=1138)

No mention of alternatives in the title, cabinet approved a consultation process with local stakeholders briefly to consider how “The council could better engage with the private rented sector” of course licensing was in there too. The full brief can be viewed here (pages 10 & 11): http://www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/site/scripts/meetings_info.php?meetingID=1138

Subsequently HBC issued questionnaires to stakeholders, 72 stakeholders in total. They allowed less than three weeks for responses and concluded the exercise with just 29 responses. Additional claims to have contacted 320 citizen panel members were also made, although no results have been made available, nor details of what was emailed in the first instance.

Around this time HBC also wrote to various stakeholders, HLA, Police, Fire Service, Charities, Residents Associations, Social Landlords etc, and invited them to be part of a council created Liason Group. This was sanctioned by the above cabinet resolution, the purpose being to advice upon ways in which the council could better work with the private sector.

This liaison group established by the council had its first meeting on the 18th October, two council officers in attendance, plus Claire Pritchard (deputy leader) and ten others including HLA.

The initial stakeholder meeting proved to be constructive with many positive suggestions from a range of stakeholders such as accreditation for landlord and tenant, various targeted and co-operative landlord and tenant education campaigns, voluntary fire inspections on all tenancies, passport to housing qualifications, single point contacts, access to a choice based letting scheme, rent deposit scheme and alike.

On the 19th October, HLA learnt that less than 24 hours after the first stakeholder meeting, Helen Graham (Housing Manager) presented the alleged findings of the consultation to the Homeless in Hyndburn Forum, these findings summarised selective licensing without reference to alternatives discussed. http://www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/site/scripts/meetings_info.php?meetingID=1108

On the 31st October, the stakeholder group met again, on arrival this same presentation was made by Helen Graham to its members and the forum was diverted from open discussion to a focus upon selective licensing.

Within the group members were asked to highlight areas they felt may benefit from selective licensing. The forum members independent of council staff and councillors all completed a map highlighting these areas. Independently, a very clear and majority consensus was reached highlighting Woodnook, Springhill and small pockets in two or three other locations. Compelling argument was submitted by Hyndburn Landlords to introduce a phased and targeted scheme rolling it out in these areas initially with further areas introduced once successfully implemented. These proposals were accepted and concurred in the majority by the group and HBC employees offered no objections.

On the 9th November, the forum convened its final meeting, only to be briefed by Helen Graham on a proposal for selective licensing which had apparently been concluded. As part of the proposal Helen Graham displayed a designation map which bore no reference to what had been suggested by the forum. Helen Graham advised the forum that HBC can listen but does not have to agree.

HLA are of the firm belief that HBC entered into this consultation with false intentions and a pre-ordained agenda, as set out by them in numerous public statements. The exercise of involving stakeholders to simply tick boxes for the sake of satisfying legislation goes entirely against the original brief of improving the way in which HBC works with private landlords.

Early in November HLA became aware of HBCs intention to submit these disputed findings to cabinet for an approval, to allow the council to then commence the process of a twelve week consultation.

HLA wrote to all councillors and the chief executive of HBC making them aware of the discrepancies and misrepresentations in the submission to cabinet. On the 22nd November the council removed the item from its agenda for the 23rd November 2011.

The deputy leader email HLA advising she was willing to meet and discuss the matter further, on the 25th November Mark Hoyle wrote to HLA in response to our complaints, he concluded with:

“in light of your concerns, and because the council wishes to maintain dialogue and partnership working, I agreed with the portfolio holder for Regeneration and Housing that our proposals for selective licensing were removed from the cabinet agenda on the 23rd November 2011 to enable further consideration and dialogue to take place.

I will contact you again in the near future to outline the council’s next steps.”

At this time a formal complaint was submitted to the council raising numerous concerns and this was acknowledged in several letters from HBC in December.

Christmas came and went.

On the 9th January Paul Brown received a telephone call from a Lancashire Evening Telegraph reporter asking for comments on the pending cabinet agenda: Item 11 – Private Landlord Selective Licensing. http://www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/downloads/Proposal_to_Designate_a_Selective_Licensing_Scheme_Jan_2012_2_.pdf

No comment we said, because no one had told us that it was back before the cabinet.

Furthermore neither the deputy leader nor the head of regeneration had contacted us and honoured their assurances of a meeting and further dialogue!

Clare Pritchard then gave a press statement, consistently in line with the councils attitude: Deputy leader Clare Pritchard, who oversees regeneration said a smaller scheme involving select parts of Peel, Barnfield, Central, Spring Hill, Church and Church Kirk now had the backing of landlords who have been consulted in advance. http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/hyndburn/9459215.Accrington_s_landlord_regulation_scheme_revived/

They don’t, she is and was fully aware of this! We have never given our backing and at this time had a formal complaint lodged along with the letters of complaint issued to all councillors

Very hastily on the 9th January HLA again contacted all councillors and the executive raising serious concerns about the lies, misrepresentations, the failure to honour assurances as above, the absence of a response to our formal complaint in December and our frank disappointment. One councillor responded.

On the 9th January HBC asked HLA to point out the errors, lies and misrepresentations within the proposal – we responded advising one day to do this was frankly insufficient.

At 22.29 on the 10th January HLA received an email response to the formal complaint issued in December and on the Morning of the 11th (day of the cabinet meeting) a response from the Deputy Leader in respect of the mail sent to councillors and the executive, again asking US to highlight their errors in the proposal and dismissing the representations made by HLA.

Cabinet continued on the 11th January and approved the consultation.

We are now in consultation, we shall post in the next week advising landlords