Committee (1st Day)

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, the amendments put forward give rise to a very simple, brutal question—I speak as somebody who is wrestling with trying to produce a council budget at the moment, in very difficult circumstances—and that is: how much is this going to cost local authorities? I have looked at the impact assessment, and basically it talks about the cost to the private housing sector—to the providers of private-landlord accommodation. Unless I have completely missed it, I cannot find any assessment of the cost to the local authorities, who will have the responsibility of doing all this. My first question is: have the Government made an assessment of this and, if so, will they tell us what it is?

The second thing I have been trying to apply my mind to is, in my own authority, how we will deal with this. The point about local authorities, of course, is that they are very different: there are large unitary counties, there are large metropolitan and other unitary urban authorities, and there are small districts. It is the housing authorities as a whole which will have to deal with this, including the small districts. The way the small districts may be able to cope is perhaps very different to that of a large authority that employs a lot more specialist staff, such as solicitors and property management people. I have, therefore, been trying to get my mind round how local authorities will actually make the decisions about applying to the tribunal for a banning order—who will make those decisions, how it will be done, how much it will cost, how much work will go into it—and dealing with appeals, because it is quite clear that there will be a lot of appeals, assuming that a lot of people go through the banning process.

Then there is the second decision. Apart from the people who have gone through the tribunal and automatically go on the database, there is a decision about whether to put the other people who have been convicted of banning offences on the database. How much time and resource will that decision take? Again, there is the question of appeals, which are never cheap for local authorities, and then there is the cost of maintaining the database itself: whether or not that is onerous depends on how many people there are on the database. My second question is really linked to how much the Government think this is going to cost local authorities—any answer to that must be based on an idea of how many cases there are going to be over the period of a year, or whatever it might be. Do the Government have any answer at all to those questions?