Owing to the withdrawal of three Members from the meeting, Cabinet was inquorate. For this item Cabinet considered the report on an informal basis.
Further to Minute No. 131 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 27th November, 2013, Councillor McNeely, Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods, introduced a report by the Strategic Director of Neighbourhoods and Adult Services, which highlighted the agreement to proceed with a public consultation exercise on a proposal to introduce selective licensing of private rented accommodation in Rotherham.
Public consultation concerning the proposals opened on 13th January, 2014 and was due to close on 24th March, 2014, after the statutory ten weeks. However, the report now submitted provided an update to advise Members on some of the key themes emerging from the consultation process to date.
The approach to consultation had been successful. It prompted the return of questionnaires, interest at the drop-in sessions that were held and a large influx of correspondence by letter, email and formal Freedom of Information requests.
Some local landlords and letting agents had strongly expressed their opposition to the scheme and an Action Group had been established. In addition, the National Landlord Association had also indicated its opposition.
The consultation to consider introducing a scheme started a debate, which had also been aired in the local press and on radio, and allowed for a constructive series of meetings with landlords and Action Group representatives to hear their views on improving private sector housing management.
An indication of the interest in the proposal was shown by the numbers of returned questionnaires to date being in excess of 1,600 (10%). Of these some 70% were showing support for the proposal. However, the final analysis needed to consider not only the number of returns (where the numbers were dominated by local residents/tenants), but also the qualitative commentary put forward. In particular, the Council needed to stay firmly focussed on the best way of achieving the objective of improving management and standards within the private rented sector.
Following the completion of the consultation an options report with recommendations would be submitted to Cabinet and would analyse the response to the consultation questionnaire, along with letters and emails registering viewpoints from residents, landlords and businesses.
Cabinet Members sought clarification on whether consideration had been given to already established schemes across the U.K. and the steps that could be taken to improve the standards of homes for people.
The Chief Executive informed Cabinet that he would exercise his delegated powers, following consultation with Councillors McNeely, Smith, Stone and Wyatt and the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, and take the necessary steps to publicise the information contained in the report and the views expressed by Elected Members.
A further report upon the actions taken by the Chief Executive under his delegated powers was to be received at the next Cabinet meeting.
(Councillors Akhtar, Doyle and Hussain declared personal interests on the grounds that they or their families were rented property owners and left the room whilst the report was discussed)