Southend selective licensing scheme delayed

A scheme to tackle rogue landlords in Southend has been delayed by months after Conservative councillors demanded more detailed plans.

Southend Council was set to rubber stamp a selective licensing scheme for landlords which will allow the council to set minimum standards for private rented properties.

The scheme, approved earlier this year, was all set to launch on December 1 but was referred back to cabinet by Conservative group leader Tony Cox following a narrow vote at a full council meeting on Thursday.

Cllr Cox said: “When you go to the current report, there is not one single recommendation on how to implement the scheme. We haven’t got any detailed recommendations on how we are going to introduce the scheme. What we haven’t got is how the scheme is going to be administered but if we are going to have a scheme it’s got to be compliant and robust and all the options have got to be looked at.”

A five-year license will cost landlords £688.

The scheme, which will now be delayed until spring, will cover Milton, Kursaal, Victoria and Chalkwell wards, because of high levels of deprivation and crime.

Peter Wexham, Lib Dem councillor for Leigh ward warned against a delay. He said: “It will be February or March before we start doing it again and in all that time these people are going to still be living in squalor.

“We need to get this up and running now. It’s for the benefit of those tenants who are having to live in squalor or who have to put up with antisocial behaviour from neighbours. It’s not very nice the way some people live.”

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, said the scheme would give the council “the teeth that we have been lacking and desperately need.”

Council leader Ian Gilbert added: “For the first time the council will be able and have the resource to put in a proactive inspection regime so that we don’t actually have to wait for complaints, we don’t have to wait for things to get so bad that the tenant is driven to desperation.”

Nevertheless, councillors voted 23 to 24 in favour of referral back.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter