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Failed landlord licensing scheme set to return to Salford despite leaving £700,000 void in council budget

By Robbie Gill

Salford Council are set to continue with the failed Landlord Licensing scheme which has created a void of over £700,000.

The scheme was intended to raise standards in privately rented accommodation and ensure all landlords are fit and proper.

In its initial term, it has raised £40,000 from landlords each year, but this has failed to cover the costs of running the department.

Five members of staff have run the scheme which cost nearly £1million, taking away the money raised it amounts to a void of over £700,000 in the council’s budget.

It was initially intended as a short term measure which would run for four years, however the council have decided to extend this.

Chairman of the Salford Green Party Joseph O’Neil has been critical of the scheme in the wake of pay cuts at the council.

He said: “With the austerity measures in place and the prospect of job losses and wage cuts within Salford how can this council warrant continuing with a failed scheme?”

Salford Council have been keen to defend the scheme in the wake of an increase in complaints made against rogue landlords across Manchester.

A Shelter study revealed that the number of complaints about landlords in Salford specifically in the last three years was 767, while the total number of successful prosecutions made in 2011/12 was only 34.

Councillor Gena Merrett, Assistant Mayor for Housing and Environment has therefore been keen to express the necessity to exercise greater control and launched a widespread consultation.

She said: “In looking at the case for introducing a further landlord licensing scheme in Langworthy, Weaste and Seedley, Salford Council contacted 8,000 people.

“The consultation was conducted in line with Government best practice guidance over a 12-week period. It was a widely accessible process and was also available on the council’s website.

“Landlords, agents, residents, businesses and other parties had ample opportunity to make their voice heard.

Although even Councillor Merrett had to express her disappointment with the low response figures of less than 0.5%.

She said: “Bearing in mind the efforts that the council undertook to consult with as wide an audience as possible, it was disappointing to receive a lower response rate than we had expected.”

The opinions of landlords and residents are split, with most landlords opposed and many residents in favour.

The need for further regulation is clear, but it remains unlikely that a scheme which has created such a void is the way to do this.

This is even truer at a time when the lowest paid members of staff at Salford Council are facing forced pay cuts.

Some residents have come out in support of the scheme as they feel that the lack of regulation is contributing to anti-social behavior.

One resident said: “I have experienced anti-social behaviour from landlord tenants. Therefore the license will safeguard me and my family and property.”

However, landlords have moved to attack the council over their plans on the basis that it will stunt investment in the area.

One landlord said: “A law imposed on a few number of people is purely a scam. It will end up turning the area into a ghost zone. People are not stupid and will go and invest in a decent Council. Get real.”

Local resident and landlord David Betts said that in its previous run it failed to make any difference to standards and made landlords less inclined to improve their properties.

He added: “It is a local property tax in a city that already has one of the highest council taxes in the country.

“It hasso far achieved nothing apart from sour relations between the council and landlords. Jobs and services are being cut to fund this and it has no support.

“Gena Merrett was quoted as saying that there was ‘considerable support’ for the licensing scheme, we can only conclude from her statement that she is either lying or has poor maths skills.”

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