What are the benefits of Selective Licensing?
There is a review taking place in parts of Southend on Sea , to see if Selective Licensing would be a good scheme to be introduced. Parts of Kursaal, Milton and Chalkwell wards are being looked at to see if it would help the local communities, in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour, improve the quality of accommodation and help the general areas to improve. Selective Licensing requires owners of privately rented dwellings to pay for a license.
Under the scheme, every residential premises which is privately let to one or more tenants – subject to certain exemptions – must be licensed, if it is within the designated area. The relevant fee must also be paid.
With this in mind the council have put this scheme out for consultation. Roads in the borough have been suggested, residents and landlords are being asked for their views on the scheme.
What are the benefits?
- Reduction in anti-social behaviour
- Conditions on license relating to gas safety/smoke alarms
- Anti-social behaviour clause to be signed at commencement of each new tenancy
- Improved living conditions
- Fewer complaints
- Better behaved tenants; longer tenancies, potentially increased rent levels and improved property value (over time).
The consultation is showing that there is support for the scheme, but that landlords are also very concerned too.
I think the principle is good, to bring up the quality of tenants living in Southend properties and landlords do have a big part to play in that.
Landlord’s concerns range, from whether the license costs too much, the effectiveness of policing, the need for CCTV, to council tenants just as culpable for ASB. There maybe some valid arguments from landlords and the main thing is, that we the council and the landlords work in tandem to deliver an effective policy that reduces ASB and helps improve the community for all our residents.
A film afternoon was put on by Cllr Burdett in partnership with Estuary Housing in the summer holidays. Children were able to watch ‘Spy Kids’ whilst eating popcorn. The event was completely free. Cllr Burdett said “Film clubs provide the opportunity for communities to see films they may not otherwise have access to”.
Dog fouling is a major issue for many of our towns and cities. It is the most offensive type of litter on our streets and it is consistently raised as a public concern.
In May 2010 I submitted a dog fouling petition to full council. My petition was submitted because, when knocking on doors and walking the streets of my ward in Kursaal, it became clear there was an issue with dog fouling. Parents were informing me of how their children were stepping out of their homes and immediately stepping in the mess. It then became clear, when speaking to people in the wider community that there was a problem in different parts of the town too. As a result, my petition called upon action to be taken in Kursaal and across the town: more signage, more bins.
The petition was considered at Cabinet and I am delighted to say that our administration took on board the views of residents. As a result, more signage and bins were obtained for the ward, but the problem still goes on and arguably is a very difficult to solve.
When, in July another petition was submitted for another ward in Southend on Sea, on this very same issue, it came before the Economic and Environment Scrutiny Committee, on which I sit. The petition put forward that the issue of dog fouling be looked at in the specific ward. During the course of the meeting it was felt that action should be taken across the whole town, and so was sent back to Cabinet for further discussion.
This is an issue I have campaigned on for a while now. Personally, as well as sanctions against unscrupulous dog owners, I would like to see free dog poo bags made available to residents. This is seen in Castle Point Borough Council, where bags can be collected from libraries and council offices and cashiers.
I met with residents of Christchurch Road over the weekend to discuss the issue of anti-social behaviour in the park behind Christchurch Court.
The residents were concerned about the negative behaviour which they are having to endure, at times through out the night. The main issue was youths playing football against the steel wall in the middle of the park. The impact of the ball against the steel wall makes a very loud noise, which when late at night wakes the residents up. They are sworn at when they address the youths about the problem. They told me this had been a problem for years.
I asked officers if there was anything that could be done to make the park free from such yobbish behaviour in the evening/night time hours? It seems to me that this space was intended for young people, but the residents claim that hardly any children use the play facilities and the area is being abused.
I put to officers that given the trouble it causes, was it feasible to remove the steel wall/ goal post in the middle of the park.
Result: A meeting on site with officers and hopefully residents. Looking to see if the post could be removed.
Interesting to read that Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is promoting transparency in local councils by urging them to allow online filming of council discussions.
Bob Neill MP, Local Government Minister has evidently written to councils advising them to allow ‘online broadcasters’ to get the same access to public meetings as journalists do.
This move was started by Margaret Thatcher in the 1960s when she passed the Private Members Bill, Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings Act 1960).
Eric Pickles said:
“Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council. Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don’t seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in. With local authorities in the process of setting next year’s budget this is more important than ever.
He went onto say “Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny. The greater powers and freedoms that we are giving local councils must be accompanied by stronger local accountability. We are in the digital age and this analogue interpretation of the press access rules is holding back a new wave of local scrutiny, accountability and armchair auditors.”
The video below is a clip of Tim Coates, the ex CEO of Waterstones. Being a councillor in a Borough where spending reductions need to be made, the video makes a very interesting watch.
Mr Coates spoke to an audience of residents and councillors on the Isle of Wight about how to cut library spending without cutting libraries.
Mr Coates successfully takes out 35% of the cost of running libraries by giving local libraries greater autonomy and taking out several layers of the management structure at the town hall and allowing the wholesaler to distribute the books to each library rather than the books having to go via the council, thereby increasing cost. He presents, it would seem a much more simplified version of managing libraries and at a much greater level of value for money.
Mr Coates presents a typical management structure where the chain starts with library staff flowing up nine layers until we eventually get to the councillor. He strips the layers of management down to just four, and rather the chain ends with individual library managers. Mr Coates says:
‘Arrangements should be made with library suppliers so that each individual library orders and receives its own shelf ready supplies …Each library should be given access to several suppliers
With this new arrangement each library manager should be free to decide what to order, how to handle reservations and when to arrange transfers from other libraries.
Their budget will be allocated monthly and they will have the responsibility to their own local community for providing for and meeting their needs.
The library manager is also free to manage the staff budget and arrange opening hours to suit the local community, the use of volunteers and other outreach activities.’
These seem sensible ideas and is the sort of thinking which is needed up and down the country in these harsh economic times. This successful individual proves that cuts can be made without affecting the provision of services.
Dog fouling is persistent problem for Southend residents, and Councillors in Kursaal Ward are issuing a plea with people living in the area to make sure they are vigilant in keeping the streets clean
The Councillor team of Cllrs Louise Burdett, Blaine Robin and Kursaal Ward Conservative Candidate, Neil Austin are ramping up the campaign against dog fouling in the ward to raise awareness and encourage responsible practice in cleaning up after these pets. Prospective Councillor, Neil Austin, who is a lecturer at South East Essex College has been out talking to residents as part of his campaign and was surprised to find how often the issue was raised. “When we are out in the community talking to people, the issue of dog fouling is raised repeatedly by locals”, he says, “It would be a very easy problem to remedy if each and every dog owner took responsibility for clearing up their pet’s mess, so this is what we are calling for.”
Councillors Louise Burdett and Blaine Robin have been campaigning on the issue for some while to ensure that as much as possible is done to remedy the problem. They presented a petition on the issue, with over 200 signatures to the Council last July but it is clear that renewed action is required.
“We are concerned about this problem as it is not nice for residents to be confronted with dog mess on the streets on a daily basis, particularly if they do not have dogs themselves and are not part of the problem”, says Cllr Burdett, “From a Councillor perspective we are issuing a strong plea to residents out walking their dogs to make sure they act responsibly and pick up any mess when taking them out for a walk.” Cllr Robin, who has children himself, added “It is an issue causing most annoyance to young families with toddlers, prams and to wheelchair users in the ward as aside from spreading bacteria, it is incredibly unpleasant to have to clean it off.”
The ward Councillor team will be continuing to fight hard on the issue as needed in Council and through their communications with residents to make sure the situation improves.
This week Councillor’s Blaine Robin and Louise Burdett met with Councillor Stephen Castle. Stephen was a leading player in the London bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games. Stephen spoke about the events locally in Southend and the impact that they would have on the local community.
For example Stephen spoke about the Velodrome which will also be used before the Games starts, he mentioned the white water rafting course on the River Lea and of course the mountain biking at Hadleigh.
Local Councillors in Kursaal Ward have been working hard to support the case for Selective Licensing powers for Southend Council, which mean they would have the authority to close down residential properties that did not meet stringent standards.
Conservative Councillors have been pressing for the scheme to start in Kursaal ward, in order to protect the standard of living for residents. Under the scheme, landlords who do not comply with a certain set of defined standards could have their properties shut down to residential lettings. Properties with being rented out, as a minimum would have to be well maintained and cared for or they risk being subjected to fines. Private landlords would also have a duty to take responsibility for the behaviour of their tenants, so reducing the intake of antisocial individuals who are then left to their own devices likely causing problems for neighbours in the area.
The move is supported by Councillors Louise Burdett and Blaine Robin, and Conservative Ward Candidate Neil Austin who have been in communications with Councillor Anna Waite who holds the portfolio for Housing. It is recognised that this will be an important first move for improving the quality of living the town, particularly in more disadvantaged wards such as Kursaal where there is at present a high proportion of shared accommodation, flats and bedsits.
The Council plan to take this forward as a serious step, and Cllr Waite said “Whilst selective licensing will not turn the area around alone it is a first and important step to address the issues and I am very committed to get this up and running.”
“There will be a consultation and I urge residents to get involved in this and to let us know what they think. Within the selected area all rented properties, not just Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), can fall within the selective licensing remit if Anti Social Behaviour is present.”
Through his work in Kursaal Ward, Neil Austin has been able to identify the clear need for moves such as Selective Licensing to improve quality of life for many residents. “Having been out in the Ward, talking to local people, it is clear that something needs to be done to ensure landlords can take more responsibility for the people they take into their properties. It is also a basic right for people in the area to have a property that meets good quality standards and provides all the modern conveniences that can be expected. There is work to be done, and Selective Licensing is a positive first step to offering that protection to our community.”
Private residents concerned with the standard of their rented property, or with any housing issues can speak to their local councillors. Residents can also submit their views to the consultation when it opens at the Council’s website: http://www.southend.gov.uk/