Clause 58 - Enforcement by local housing authorities: general duty

Part of Renters (Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 28 November 2023.

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Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 11:00, 28 November 2023

My hon. Friend’s point is extremely well made. As I have commented already, there is an issue about which local authorities prioritise these services, but precisely because they are a discretionary service, there is an issue of resources and funding. That is the second of the points I wish to put to the Minister.

In assessing why the approach of so many local authorities to enforcement is inherently reactive, one cannot escape the issue of capacity and capabilities. Not only are councils across the country under huge financial pressure at present but many are struggling, and indeed have struggled for some time, to recruit experienced officers to carry out enforcement activity. Yet the White Paper was entirely silent on the challenge of local authority resourcing and staffing. The provisions in the Bill that enable local authorities to keep the proceeds of financial penalties to reinvest in enforcement activity are welcome. However, the funds that will raise—not least because the Government have chosen to cap financial penalties at £5,000 and £30,000 respectively—are unlikely to provide the initial funding required to implement the new system, and even in the medium to long term will almost certainly not cover the costs of all the new regulatory and enforcement responsibilities that clause 58 will require local authorities to meet.

The White Paper committed the Government to conducting a new burdens assessment into the reform proposals it set out, assessing their impact on local government, and, where necessary, fully funding the net additional cost of all new burdens placed on local councils. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister can give us today a clear commitment on resources. Specifically, can he tell us whether the commitment to a new burdens assessment will be honoured and, if so, when it will be published?