Councils could lose powers to clampdown on rogue landlords under new government reforms.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has slammed government plans to revoke local authorities’ ability to introduce selective licensing of privately rented homes.
Since 2004, councils have had powers to regulate private landlords in areas of low housing demand or significant anti-social behaviour.
In March 2010, rules were relaxed granting councils greater powers.
Now, to avoid a ‘blanket licensing approach’, the government is wrestling back control and Coun Forbes argues this hinders the council’s ability to help residents.
“It is taking away our abilities as a local democracy. It makes it harder to tackle the problems in some areas of the city.
“Government has created an extra hurdle to jump before we can tackle the issue.
“Despite all of the talk around devolution, central government stripped away important powers from local councils. We have lost the ability to respond to residents.”
The government argue reforms will help councils focus their enforcement where it is needed most and stop good landlords being punished.
But the Labour leader of the council accused Whitehall of being influenced by the powerful private landlord lobby.
“Up to now local authorities have had the ability to introduce selective licensing successfully, wherever there has been a problem.
“Now the government has taken away that power and forced us to beg for the ability to do it. I can only assume government has been lobbied by the vested interests of private sector landlords.
“There are some really good private landlords but there are some terrible ones. Some privately rented properties end up becoming eyesores, and a blight on otherwise clean streets.
“It’s one of the things people consistently complain about and it is important we are able to licence these properties to ensure the safety of tenants.”
Bruce Haagensen, local representative for National Landlords Association, believes selective licensing has failed in the city.
“The NLA is fully behind efforts to improve the standard of housing in Newcastle and believe that selective licensing when carried out properly and fully resourced is a useful tool for councils to use.
“However this does not seem to be the case in Newcastle.
“The existing scheme has not achieved sustainable tenancies, improved prices or the reduced the number of empty houses and after consulting with interested parties (landlords, tenants, businesses and others in the community) it was found that over 60 per cent suggested there had been no change during the scheme; essentially the scheme has failed.”
The city currently has two selective licensing schemes in Benwell and Byker which have been running since September 2010 and March 2011 respectively.
Landlords have been hit with massive fines for failing to apply for the correct licences.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Apr 2015
> The on-going campaign against begging has now arrived in Middlesbrough.
The campaign against the conditions that make people beggars has not yet started, nor is it likely to.
Middlesbrough‘s Mayor Ray Mallon has promised a clampdown on beggars to give retailers and shoppers in the town “a good Christmas”.
> Is he seriously claiming that beggars are affecting Middlesbrough’s economy ? But surely they plough money they make back into the tills of retailers too ?
The outspoken mayor launched a new attack on beggars at a meeting of Middlesbrough Council’s Executive today.
“Beggars are not homeless, they are criminals,” he said, claiming they “diversify from crime to begging because it pays well”.
“I know half of these people, I was locking their fathers up,” he said.
> Not pausing to reflect that he might have helped build the current situation when he was busy playing RoboCoop.
Mr Mallon went on: “These beggars are affecting economics because they are intimidating.
“It becomes quite difficult for shoppers to walk around and not be intimidated.”
The mayor said beggars were now targeting car parks as people give them money there because “they feel they could be robbed”.
“I know this as lots of members of the public have told me this,” he said.
> Oh, well… scientific survey and all that. Some people told me so it must be true, especially as it reinforces my prejudices.
I suppose if I’m being fair, I have my predjudices too. Ex-cops who get elected as mayors, for example, despite the fact that…
At a disciplinary hearing in February 2001, Mallon pleaded guilty to 14 charges of misconduct, 12 of which were serious enough to warrant his resignation.
He admitted that he repeatedly “lied, deliberately withheld evidence from senior officers, and turned a blind eye to detectives who took and dealt hard drugs, and supplied them to vulnerable suspects in custody.”
He was required to resign on leaving the police headquarters.
In 2011, Mallon came under fire over secret recordings in which he is heard making sexual comments about a colleague and describes Asian taxi drivers as ‘badly behaved’. These recordings were made during a meeting with Mohammed Bashir, the owner of local taxi company Boro Taxis. The remarks were perceived as sexist and racist by many, but Mallon subsequently offered an explanation and apology for his remarks.
The recordings also make reference to a disagreement between the council and Bashir over Boro Taxis’ trade. In dealing with this dispute, Mallon failed to declare his personal friendship with Bashir, as he was required to.
In the recordings, Mallon claims to have ‘played a fucking blinder‘ and goes on to say: “Well I’m the boss here but remember this, I’m prevented from doing my job because of my conflict of interest with you… because I have actually got away with murder because I’ve declared my friendship with you in that meeting and still been able to do what I want to do.“
The Standards Board for England, a watchdog for ethical standards in local councils, ruled against Mallon on a charge of bringing his office into disrepute and on two separate charges of failing to declare, when required, a personal interest. However the board did not recommend any sanctions be brought against Mallon.[
The subject changed to begging after the meeting heard how a free parking scheme was drawing Christmas shoppers into Middlesbrough.
Mr Mallon said parking was one of the barriers that can stop people visiting a town, and begging was another.
He said the council and its partners needed to “keep on top” of the problem with it being the Christmas period.
Councillor Steve Bloundele, Executive member for commercial assets and property, told the meeting that an ongoing clampdown had already reduced the number of beggars in the Linthorpe Road area.
“We still have the support of all the other agencies working alongside us,” he said.
Begging is an issue tackled regularly by Ray Mallon.
Back in September he told the Executive:
“The local authority must take this subject very seriously and do everything in its power to eradicate this problem.
“From now on I don’t want the public to give them any money.”
On another occasion Mr Mallon took direct action against a beggar by standing next to him and telling shoppers not to give him any money until he got fed up and moved away.
The mayor declared war against beggars as long ago as 2002, when he pledged to run a growing army of aggressive beggars on the streets of Middlesbrough out of town.
It was the new growth area in anti-social behaviour, he warned during a council debate on crime and policing in the town in September of that year.
In 2005 it was claimed the final ‘hardcore’ beggar had been run out of Middlesbrough.
Then in 2008 key agencies joined forces to tackle a new influx of beggars in the town.
The move came just days after Mayor Mallon warned that beggars intimidated members of the public and again called for offenders to be run out of town.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 09 Dec 2014
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Mallon
Operation Dollar has been launched on the back of increased concerns about people begging in North Shields town centre and Front Street, Tynemouth.
Officers from the local Neighbourhood Policing Team will be carrying out high visibility patrols as well as working with other agencies such as the Changing Lives scheme which aims to help homeless people.
Members of the public are being advised to help and not to give money to beggars.
North Shields and Tynemouth Neighbourhood Inspector Geoff Cross said:
“Beggars can be intimidating to some people and put them off from going to certain areas.
“Begging itself is an offence and it is often the case that people who are begging are involved in other crime and anti-social behaviour that has detrimental effect on the community.
“We want people to be able to visit Tynemouth and North Shields without fear of being harassed by beggars.
“Most people begging need help and support or help of some kind, and organisations such as Changing Lives can help put them in touch with the correct support and ensure they get the right help.”
“By ensuring those found begging are directed to the correct support it’s hoped we can reduce the amount of begging taking place on the streets.”
> I wonder in how many cases ‘the right help‘ put them on the streets in the first place ? As we know, Iain Duncan Smith believes sanctions help people focus on getting a job… how many sanctioned people have had to take up a ‘job’ begging as a result of them ?
Source – Whitley Bay News Guardian, 11 Nov 2014
Controversial plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school are to be raised in the House of Commons.
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, a former pupil of the school affected, Kenton, is taking the step as she is so outraged at the prospect of it being sited there.
The two-storey ‘drive thru’ outlet is planned for Kenton Lane on the site of the old Crofters Lodge pub, sparking huge controversy.
Despite 221 objections put to Newcastle City Council, and two online e-petitions signed by nearly 600 people against the scheme, officers have recommended that planning committee members grant the application at a meeting on Friday.
Ms Onwurah said:
“I’ll be raising it in the Commons on Monday at Department for the Communities and Local Government questions.
“If it gets approval, I’ll be asking Secretary of State Eric Pickles why councils can’t take proper account of strength of local feeling.
“If planning permission is refused and I certainly hope it is, McDonald’s may think of appealing. If it is allowed then the planning process will have failed. In either case I want too know where this puts the Government’s so called localism agenda.”
McDonald’s claim the scheme will help create 75 jobs and generate £1.9m for the local economy.
However, since the plan became public Kenton School, which has 2,000 pupils, parents and local residents have strenuously objected to it.
Their concerns are about increased traffic on an already busy road, litter, noise, anti-social behaviour and public health issues.
With the country in the middle of an obesity crisis amongst the young, and Newcastle having some of the worst figures for it, there are fears that having a fast food outlet near a school could make the situation worse.
In their report, planners said litter teams, acoustic screens and control of its opening and delivery times will keep noise and litter issues under control.
They also said the existing highway network will be able to cope with increased traffic while the council’s ‘Draft Core Strategy’ which seeks to control the location of, and access to, unhealthy eating outlets don’t justify refusing the proposal on public health grounds.
Ms Onwurah said:
“Obesity is a danger to our children’s future. I really don’t understand how the officers came to their conclusion.
“There is a McDonald’s already close by in Kingston Park, a commercial area, and that’s fine.
“This is a cynical attempt to grab a new market in an area close to a school.”
“I am calling for Newcastle City Council and McDonald’s to respect the views of the residents of Kenton and Kenton School which are overwhelmingly against the proposals because of the impact it will have on their environment.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Sept 2014
Plans to tackle ‘aggressive and persistent’ city centre beggars have stirred plenty of debate.
Newcastle City Council’s Safe Newcastle Board is setting up a project team to assess and plan the use of injunctions to tackle the ‘top 10’ offenders in the city.
The injunctions, which could come into force in October as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, would compel them to accept accommodation and drug or alcohol treatment.
Since plans of the crackdown first came to light, readers of ChronicleLive.co.uk have had their say online and on social media.
Matt O’Malley said: “Instead of wasting money on creating ASBOs and all the paper work and man hours put into them, why not put the money towards helping them sort their lives out.”
But Michael Hall responded: “That’s a good idea Matt, like that’s not tried week in, week out. They don’t want it.
“They are offered loads and throw it back in the faces of people who are trying to help them because they are content to live off handouts from the public, to which they get quite a bit from.”
The new powers start on October 20 and the purpose of the injunctions is to prevent nuisance and annoyance by stopping individuals engaging in anti-social behaviour quickly, nipping problems in the bud before they escalate.
The new act replaces 19 existing powers, with six which include an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance.
Writing on the Chronicle’s Facebook page, Jacob Pattern said: “Persecution of the disadvantaged without solving the real source of the problem. They will be lost in the system once put through this petty scheme.
“The council should be ashamed of themselves for ranking the most vulnerable of our society.”
Nicola Birkett posted: “I’ve never met an aggressive homeless person yet in town and I’m there on a daily basis.
“I always give what I can and they’re always polite and very grateful.”
Michael Wass added: “I’ve noticed that over the last few years, the number of rough sleepers has increased dramatically.
“A friend of mine who lives by the Gate regularly had rough sleepers breaking into the building and sleeping in the stairwells.
“The street people aren’t usually aggressive but there is quite clearly a serious substance problem going on in town that isn’t being talked about.”
Lib Dem city councillor for North Heaton, Greg Stone, previously said the term ‘top 10’ was inappropriate.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Aug 2014
North East councils have been picked to pilot an expansion of the Government’s scheme to help “troubled families”.
They were chosen for the because they are among authorities which have been successful with the existing troubled families scheme, according to the Government.
The programme is designed to help families which have problems with truancy, crime, anti-social behaviour or unemployment.
But it is to be expanded to include families which have suffered from domestic violence or poor mental and physical and health or debt. It will also be expanded to include children under five, whereas previously only school-age youngsters were included.
Gateshead, Newcastle, Durham and Middlesbrough are all to pilot the expanded scheme.
So far, Newcastle has “turned around” 652 families out of 1080 “troubled families” identified, according to official figures. This means it has helped the families deal with at least one of the problems facing them.
Durham has helped 676 out of 1,320 families, Gateshead has helped 301 out of 595 and Middlesbrough has helped 303 families out of 570.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “The Troubled Families Programme is an excellent example of how re-thinking public services can have a huge positive impact on the lives of families across the UK.”
The Department for Work and Pensions will provide 300 specialist troubled families employment advisers.
The troubled families programme was launched in 2011, following riots in the summer, when David Cameron vowed to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem families by 2015.
But a report last year by the National Audit Office raised concerns including the fact that only 62,000 families were currently in the programme nationwide, 13 per cent below the number that “might reasonably” have been found, and a family can be counted as being “turned around” if it shows improvement in just one area.
> Perhaps there just aren’t so many “problem families” as politicians would have us believe ?
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Aug 2014
Plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school have provoked a storm of protest.
Feelings are so high it has caused a city councillor to stand down from the planning committee which will decide whether to give it the go ahead – to help organise protests against it.
David Pearmain, head teacher of Kenton School, where around 2,000 pupils study, has submitted a lengthy objection to the city council in which he concluded: “For the sake of our children’s health and safety, please do not approve this application.”
Coun David Stockdale, who represents the neighbouring Blakelaw ward, has taken the rare step of “recluse” – voluntary exclusion – because he felt so strongly against the application.
It is for a two-storey drive-through outlet on the old Crofters Lodge pub site at the junction of Kenton Lane and Ponteland Road.
“On the committee you have to be open minded about applications you consider,” he explained. “I’ve already got a pre-determined attitude towards this and it is against it.
“Newcastle has some of the highest incidents of childhood obesity in the country. It’s an epidemic and this would site a McDonald’s on a road leading to the biggest secondary school in the city.”
He added: “Until recently I had public health responsibility on the council. One of the things we did a lot of work on was the provision that we had more power to control unhealthy eating outlets.”
Coun Stockdale said feelings were running high in the area as he leafleted houses located near the proposed site.
Coun Stephen Lambert, who represents the Kenton ward, said: “I’ve had over 58 objections from the Kenton area to this proposal. We feel it’s inappropriate. It is on an extremely busy junction, so there are issues of highway safety.
“All three Kenton councillors are supporting the residents who object to this planning application.”
A local resident who didn’t want to be named, said: “There’s are already two McDonald’s in the area, including one at Kingston Park.
“Obviously it will be a temptation to kids at lunchtime and we worry about it attracting anti-social behaviour. Petitions are being gathered and a lot of people have objected on Newcastle City Council’s website.”
One person who has is Mr Pearmain. He wrote: “Kenton School enjoys the Healthy Schools Award status, but Kenton students will be far more tempted than ever before to buy fast food snacks because of the proximity to the school.
“We know that unhealthy eating and its associated conditions are very high in the relatively deprived districts which are close to the site and which the school serves.
“Although McDonald’s also serves healthy food for those who choose it, as a commercial organisation they allow their paying customers free choice across their products and many young people will choose unhealthy options without the guidance they would receive in school. This will tend strongly to undermine the City Council’s own health policies.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson: “At McDonald’s, we serve good food made from quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from over 17,500 British and Irish farmers. We offer a broad choice and we provide clear nutrition information on our menu boards so our customers can make informed choices that are right for them.
“We would like to reassure local residents that our main priority is to be a good neighbour and we are happy to work with any member of the local community who has concerns about the impact of our business.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 June 2014