News: Councils insist 'there's no conflict of interest' after press revelations

Thu, 23 Nov 17

Research by The Guardian newspaper reveals that massive numbers of local authority councillors are also buy to let investors - and in some rental hotspots, a third of elected members are also private landlords.

The newspaper claims its findings have sparked questions as to whether local councils can independently regulate the private rental sector with so many potential conflicts of interest. 

Amongst a number of councils cited by the paper, the Devon unitary authority Torbay is said to have 39 per cent of its councillors owning multiple properties, including one who has received more than £63,000 in housing benefit payments for tenants in the last two years.

Specifically, three Conservative councillors there own a combined 68 properties.

In Bournemouth, 15 of the 37 councillors hold multiple property interests; in Labour-controlled Leeds, 26 of the 99 councillors own more than one property in the city.

The Guardian says Torbay, Bournemouth and Leeds have the largest proportion of landlord-councillors in England - and none has introduced a licensing scheme.

Only 13 of the 40 authorities with the highest proportions of private rented housing operate so-called selective landlord licensing, The Guardian research shows. Across England, 43 councils have introduced the schemes.

Other councils where more than a quarter of councillors are landlords are Conservative-controlled Bournemouth, and Forest Heath in Suffolk, Liberal Democrat-controlled Eastbourne and Labour-controlled Waltham Forest.

None of the authorities or individual councillors approached by The Guardian said there was any conflict between members of the councils being landlords and the councils themselves having powers over the private rented sectors in their areas.

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