A report from the Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care will be circulated as soon as possible. (Key decision – reference number U189/KD4026)
(8.30 – 8.35 pm)
Councillor Doug Taylor (Leader of the Council) invited Mr Constantinos Regas to present his deputation to the Cabinet. Mr Regas was accompanied by Mr Graham Collier and Mr Ian Littlewood.
Asmat Hussain (Assistant Director of Legal and Governance Services) reminded Mr Regas that he had been permitted to attend Cabinet tonight with his deputation and to make representations to the Executive. However, this permission might be withdrawn if the Council’s legal advisers considered that any representations he made strayed into the merits of the current live judicial review claim, in relation to which the sub judice rule continues to apply.
Mr Regas advised Members that he was the claimant for a judicial review against the Council following the Cabinet’s previous decision on this matter taken in April 2014.
Mr Regas noted the dispensation that had been granted to Cabinet Members as detailed in Minute No.2 above. Mr Regas raised a number of questions for Members’ consideration. He noted Professor Mayhew’s further report on anti-social behaviour in Enfield appended to Report No.114 but felt that it did not support the case for Additional Licensing in Enfield.
Mr Regas quoted from extracts, paragraphs 55 and 65, from permission hearing judgement of Mr Justice Ouseley, 3 October 2014 – The Queen (on application of Regas) v London Borough of Enfield as follows:
“55. Although the legal section of the report set out the criteria, it is for those reasons arguable that the local authority had not applied its mind to the statutory requirements for an additional licensing scheme.
65. Having concluded that part of the claim is arguable, and recognising that it is important that an arguably unlawful scheme should not be visited upon the landlords’ HMOs in Enfield unless there was very good reason why the proceedings should not go ahead, I have decided, notwithstanding the want of promptness, but having regard to the absence of prejudice, to permit the challenge in relation to the additional licensing scheme to proceed”.
Mr Regas stated that the Cabinet’s previous decision was arguably unlawful. It was felt that the Council had all the powers necessary to address anti-social behaviour within the Borough. He expressed the view that the consultation undertaken had been inadequate.
Mr Regas also quoted from an extract from Enfield Council’s submission to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into the Private Rented Sector in January 2013 in relation to the Housing Act 2004.
In conclusion Mr Regas stated that the Council was attempting to approve a scheme that had been “found wanting” by a High Court Judge. He felt that further discussion was required to address the issues without the introduction of an additional licensing scheme.
Councillor Taylor then provided an opportunity for Mr Collier or Mr Littlewood to address the Cabinet.
Mr Littlewood stated that he was a landlord in Enfield and other London Boroughs. He had always complied with legislation and had received no complaints against him. He felt that existing and new legislation provided the Council with adequate powers to tackle the issues highlighted. He did not support the Council’s Additional Licensing Scheme for Private Sector Landlords and outlined his reasons for this view. He drew Members’ attention to paragraph 5.1 of the report with regard to the possibility of designating a particular area as subject to additional licensing, as set out in the report. The actions that had been taken in Blackpool were highlighted for Members’ consideration.
Councillor Taylor thanked the deputation and invited Councillor Ahmet Oykener (Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Regeneration) and Ray James (Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care) to respond.
Councillor Oykener reiterated the Council’s commitment to work with landlords and their representatives. Good landlords would have nothing to fear from the introduction of the Scheme.
Ray James raised a number of issues in response, including the following:
1. Tackling anti-social behaviour and improving the environment in the area of Enfield was a priority for the council. One of the ways in which it had resolved to achieve this was by the introduction of Additional Licensing of HMOs below 3 storeys and selective licensing for other privately-rented dwellings.
2. On 9 April 2014 Enfield’s Cabinet had decided, following a consultation which had commenced in November 2013 and ended on 28 February 2014, and the gathering of evidence to assist its decision making, to approve proposals to designate the area of Enfield for both additional and selective licensing.
3. A claim for judicial review had been issued by a landlord who had asserted that the decision to designate Enfield for such purposes was unlawful. Permission to apply for judicial review had been granted on 3 October 2014 in relation to additional licensing only because the Judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, considered aspects of that claim to be “arguable”.
4. The full hearing of the judicial review would take place on 26 November 2014. As there were pending proceedings it would be inappropriate and in breach of the sub-judice principle for there to be discussion as to the merits of the legal challenge.
5. In light of the determination that the claim with regard to additional licensing was “arguable”, the proposal before Cabinet was for it to ratify the decision made on 9 April 2014 in that respect alone. This was felt to be prudent as a responsible local authority, to ensure that Cabinet had taken into account the correct legal principles applicable to additional licensing in its decision making. As Cabinet was being asked to ratify its decision, updated evidence was also before it as set out in the Report (No.114). Debate about the proposal would be welcomed, but for the reasons given earlier, there could not be discussion about the merits of the pending legal proceedings.
6. The report sought to draw out the evidence that had been considered in recommending to Cabinet that a significant proportion of the HMOs of the description in Annex 1 of the report were being managed sufficiently ineffectively as to give rise, or to be likely to give rise, to one or more particular problems either for those occupying the HMOs or for members of the public. It was felt that the Council had demonstrated this through previous evidence base; the previous and current reports of Professor Mayhew and the anecdotal evidence from Council Officers.
7. As set out in the report, the Council had received independent legal advice that given the extent of the consultation carried out to date, a further consultation exercise was not considered to be reasonable or proportionate.
8. Therefore with this report drawing out the evidence to support the ways in which the requirements of the Housing Act had been satisfied, supported by evidence from independent experts and council officers, Cabinet were asked to agree the recommendations set out in Report No.114.
Councillor Taylor then invited any questions from the Cabinet Members and further comments from Ray James, as follows:
(a) Councillor Alan Sitkin (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) sought reassurance that the Scheme was consistent with Enfield’s Housing Strategy.
Sally McTernan (Assistant Director Community Housing Servcies) provided reassurance to Members on this issue and stated that the Council’s Housing Strategy (2012-2017) set out the key areas for the Borough’s approach to the wider housing sector and the private rented sector. A key objective in the strategy was to “improve standards and management of homes in the private rented sector”. This included a focus on anti-social behaviour. A number of approaches to deal with anti-social behaviour had been taken by the Council, as outlined at the meeting. As the scale of the private rented sector grew it was clear that existing measures were not sufficient. The Scheme was therefore compliant with the Council’s Housing Strategy.
(b) Councillor Rohini Simbodyal (Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport, Youth and Public Health) questioned whether the Council had shown that a significant proportion of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) were suffering from poor management.
In response Sally McTernan advised that it had. There had been sufficient evidence before Cabinet in April 2014 to make the decision however, it had been considered prudent for the Cabinet to be asked to satisfy itself on the previous evidence and the new evidence that a significant proportion of HMOs in the area were being managed sufficiently ineffectively as to give rise, or to be likely to give rise to one or more of the particular problems for those occupying the HMOs or for members of the public.
(c) Councillor Yasemin Brett (Cabinet Member for Community Organisations) asked whether the consultation undertaken had been adequate.
Jayne Middleton-Albooye (Head of Legal Services) advised that the Council was satisfied that adequate consultation had taken place prior to the April 2014 Cabinet meeting. Independent legal advice had been sought and confirmed that consultation was in line with statute.
(d) Ray James (Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care) took this opportunity to respond to some of the points which had been raised in the deputation. It was prudent action for the Cabinet to ratify its previous decision for the reasons which had been outlined at the meeting and in the report being presented to Members. He noted the Blackpool illustration and reminded Members that they should only be considering Enfield factors. He reiterated the Council’s commitment to work with landlord representatives on the implementation and operation of the scheme, as detailed in recommendation 2.4 of the report.
Members then considered the report of the Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care (No.114) seeking ratification and/or review/approval of its earlier decision to implement additional licensing of houses in multiple occupation across the Borough.
Alternative Options Considered: None stated.
DECISION: The Cabinet agreed to
1. Ratify the decision to designate an additional licensing area of the district of the London Borough of Enfield as described and delineated on the map at Appendix 1 of the report.
2. Review and approve the proposed actions:
2.1 Delegate authority to the relevant Directors to manage the introduction of the additional licensing scheme to come into force on 1 April 2015 with a team in place to process licenses from December 2014.
2.2 Delegate authority to the relevant Directors to agree changes to the proposed implementation where necessary and ensure that all statutory notifications were carried out in the prescribed manner for those designations.
3. Consider and agree the proposed (annual) frequency of reviews within the five-year period for each designation, when the Cabinet would receive an update on progress and impact.
4. Reiterate the Council’s commitment to work with landlord representatives on the implementation and operation of the scheme.
Reason: The detailed reasons for the recommendations were set out in full in section 6 of the report.
(Key decision – reference number U189/4026)