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The government has handed a share of £4million to councils across the country to tackle rogue landlords, but it has been revealed that Southend won’t be benefiting because the council did not submit a bid.
For years the council has been embroiled in a debates over how to take on landlords who leave tenants living in unsafe or inadequate properties but it has emerged that they chose not to bid for a share of government money aimed at exactly that.
The council has defended their decision, claiming a bid was not submitted because “major work” in this area is already underway.
A council spokesman said: “We have already started to work towards improvements, with a number of initiatives underway to work more closely with landlords and improve standards.
“These projects include the implementation of selective licensing in the borough, an update of our empty homes strategy which is due in March and initial work has started to look at our private sector housing enforcement and assistance programme.
“We are also one of only three councils chosen nationally to work with the Centre for Homelessness Impact, the government’s Behavioural Insights Team and John Hopkins University to trial behavioural approaches to influencing landlord behaviour.
“In addition, this week we will launch a survey to local landlords to seek their views about potential schemes and tools the council could introduce to help both tenants and landlords.
“Whilst the council has an excellent track record of successfully gaining external funding across a variety of areas, because of the ongoing commitment to all of this major work, a decision was made to not make a bid to this particular central Government fund.”
The decision not to bid comes despite the council looking to introduce a major change to the way landlords operate in Southend, which could require property owners within a designated area having to pay £750 for a licence if they want to let their homes.
Work to explore whether this selective licensing scheme would be viable is costing £50,000 which has been taken from business transformation reserves.
Opposition leader, Conservative councillor Tony Cox said the news that a bid had not been submitted was “not surprising”.
He said: “This administration has been harping on about bad landlords and yet there is a pot of money there. Anyone would think they would bid for it but clearly not.
“This pot of money is a proactive fund but we don’t have a proactive council to secure this kind of funding. Instead they want to spend £50,000 out of reserves to explore the idea of a licensing scheme to try and bring properties up to standard.
“It is a missed opportunity.”
Basildon and Thurrock were among more than 100 local authorities to successfully bid for funding.
Basildon received £58,000 which will be spent on advising tenants of their rights while taking enforcement action while Thurrock was handed £27,000 for improving care homes for vulnerable people rehomed in the borough.