Up to 8,500 private tenancies may not be registered with the new Croydon Private Landlord licence scheme which came into effect on 1 October.
This is one of the useful pieces of information in answer to questions submitted by members of the public and Councillors for answer at tonight’s full Croydon Council.
There were a disappointing number from members of the public, but there are informative ones about building new Council homes, bringing empty properties back into use, building on the Green Belt, Upper Norwood Library and neighbourhood partnerships, and the future of Leader Tony Newman continues to show how skilful he is in not answering questions and spinning instead, this time on Fairfield Halls. Other topics of interest will be subject to their own blog postings.
Private Landlord Licence Scheme
As at end of 30 September how many landlords and lettings agents had registered on the licensing scheme, how many tenancies are covered by these licences, when will be licence register be publicly available, and how many tenanted homes are estimated not yet to be covered by a licence?
The reply: ‘At the end of September we had received licence applications from 10,797 landlords and managing agents for a total of 23,347 properties. We estimate that there are approximately 30,000 to 32,000 privately rented properties within the borough which means that we have yet to receive applications for approximately 6,500 to 8,500 properties. We are now processing the licences but will not begin to send these out until towards the end of November. As soon as licences are issued we will commence the register, which will then be available to the public, although it must be remembered that, particularly in the early days, the register will be updated on a daily basis.’
Council New Build Housing
Ms. Susan Glinska asked:
‘How many new-build council houses or units of social housing have been started by Croydon Council since May 2014?
The reply: ‘The current Council New Build Phase 4 programme comprises of 33 units of which 12 new homes have started on site since May 2014. All units apart from 2 units have been handed over and residents have moved in. The remaining 2 homes are due to be handed over this next week. Looking forward, the Council is forecasting a step change increase in the number of new build homes delivered. A thorough review of surplus Council owned assets has been completed and technical due diligence of 70 council owned sites is currently being undertaken. The results of this work will help inform the programme from October 2015 onwards when design and planning work will commence on these sites as part of the expanded programme. In relation to grant funding, the Council has secured affordable housing funding from the GLA for the delivery of 100 affordable homes as part of this programme to start on site no later than August 2016.’
Mark Johnson asked:
‘The Council devised a new campaign which includes the proposal to invest £0.5m to bring empty properties back in use in 2015/16 and 2016/17. Can the Cabinet member confirm how much of this budget has been spent to date and how many homes/properties under this scheme in 2015 have been made available for the people of Croydon?
The reply: ‘To date the Council have approved grants for 11 homes, amounting to a commitment of £275,000. There are significant numbers of additional applications for grants, amounting to in excess of £2m and the budget will be fully committed within the next few months. The grants are only paid upon completion of works, none of the approved projects have yet completed and no payments have yet been made from the 2015/16 budget. All homes offered a grant will be made available to the people of Croydon via one of the Housing Initiatives Team’s letting schemes prior to the owner receiving the grant payment.
Cllr Lynne Hayle wants to know why Tony Newman decided not to appoint any Council trustees to Fairfield this year. Is reply: ‘I hope you will have seen by now the wonderful news that after more than eight years of inertia by the Conservative opposition we have recently announced £30m investment to deliver a stunning fully refurbished Fairfield Hall alongside a magnificent new college for Croydon.’
Building on the Green Belt
In one of his questions Tory Leader Tim Pollard accuses Labour of including in its Local Plan proposals the encouragement of back garden development and encourage development of schools and traveller sites in the Green Belt. Newman replies: that the Plan ‘conforms with the National Planning Policy Framework … This Labour administration will oppose any inappropriate proposal to build on the Green Belt.’
Upper Norwood Joint Library
Cllr Tim Godfrey gives an update on Upper Norwood Joint Library’s future, which is under threat by the recent Lambeth Council decisions on libraries.
‘Lambeth Council has recently announced in a cabinet paper ‘Culture 2020’ their plans for the development of culture in Lambeth. This paper includes details about a change in their approach to the provision of the library in Upper Norwood. Their proposal is to turn it into one of five neighbourhood libraries. This proposal involved transferring the building to the Upper Norwood Library Trust for them to use for community and income generating purposes. As part of this a “neighbourhood” library will be provided. This will have limited library services and be unstaffed. With funding provided by Croydon Council the Upper Norwood Library Trust is currently testing income generation models in the library. This is to test the feasibility and sustainability of services should they take a lease from Croydon & Lambeth Councils. As this change to the provision of the service by Lambeth is a significant one we are currently reviewing their proposals. We are assessing implications for the library and the cost implications of any lease transfer, taking account of the condition of the building. We are working with the Trust and Lambeth to ensure that it has a sustainable future with minimum financial risk to the council. Discussions with Lambeth and the Trust are on-going and a final decision on the building and service transfer will be made in the spring of 2016.
Labour’s Andrew Pelling asked the following question:
‘As the London Assembly Member for Croydon & Sutton I much enjoyed attending Neighbourhood Partnership meetings across the Borough that the then Labour council introduced. Most of the Partnerships secured widespread community participation. In these times of austerity for local councils and wide social media access what is the Cabinet member’s vision for future community participation in the council’s affairs that can replicate some of the successes of the Partnerships abolished by the previous administration?’
Cabinet member Mark Watson replied:
‘The Council has a strong local strategic partnership where local people can get involved in shaping and influencing the development of borough and council policy and strategy. Recent examples include the Congress meeting that focussed on developing a community response to domestic abuse and sexual violence. In addition each strategy partnership board will have engagement activity that involves a wider group of interested residents. The Stronger Communities Partnership Board recently held a meeting to discuss preventing extremism. The Council hosts a number of events from meetings to walkabouts to engage local people, most recently in New Addington. The Council also funds community and voluntary sector to get involved in participatory and representative community activity in particular through active communities and community ward budgets. The Council hosts a range of tenant and resident activity on housing estates and provides and online platform called The ‘Get Involved’ platform https://getinvolved.croydon.gov.uk. This is an online way for people to participate in public consultation, engagement and to find out about events/meetings. Residents can see what is happening in the Council, how they can get involved and what the outcomes are. The site is mobile friendly so works on multiple devices. In addition there are Purple Tent events, the Council ran a series of events at community festivals over the summer – Purley, Ambition and Thornton Heath to raise the visibility of the Council and gather customer feedback/insight. At these events residents could meet and chat with colleagues from a variety of Council service, for example public health, Safer Croydon Partnership, education and the Big London Energy switch.’