Tory councillor 'frustrated' that Northampton Labour are calling in every HMO planning application

A councillor has raised concerns over Labour spending.
A councillor has raised concerns over Labour spending.

A Conservative party councillor is urging Labour to re-think the amount of HMO applications they raise at planning meetings after an estimated £9952.32 has been spent since in six months from call-ins.

Councillor James Hill (Con, Rectory Farm), the Guildhall's assistant cabinet member for planning, has asked the head of planning to research how much each HMO call-in costs Northampton Borough Council, after he claims, some Labour councillors have been calling in every application on their ward to the detriment of legitimate applications.

Councillor Hill believes Labour councillors should stop calling in so many HMO applications.

Councillor Hill believes Labour councillors should stop calling in so many HMO applications.

Northampton Borough Council officers have calculated that on average each HMO call in costs the authority £103.67, and Labour councillor call-ins have cost about £9952.32 since July 2017.

Councillor James Hill said: "To be clear I am not against the democratic right of these councillors to call in HMOs, far from it, and some have been called in for legitimate reasons.

"However officers have told me that often councillors are calling them in within minutes of being notified of the applications - clearly they cannot be fully looking into the details and merits of each one and hence have been calling them in straight away simply because they are HMOs.

"In many cases the HMOs called in have no objections from local residents and are like for like, i.e. three bedroom houses into a three-person HMO. Not only does this cost time and money but it is this detrimental to legitimate call-ins as it effects the amount of time to debate and consider them.

"I understand that many councillors have concerns with the current Article 4 policy, which is hopefully being looked into, but calling in every HMO in is not the way to solve this. In a time of well documented council budget squeeze and on-going Labour criticisms regarding the council's spending I believe it's important that this is highlighted as the cost is fairly significant."

If the current trend continues, the cost of Labour call-ins to the planning committee will equate to a total fee of about £20,000 annually, Councillor Hill claims.

But councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said her ward is under extreme pressure caused by the proliferation of HMOs and in the Tory manifesto there is a commitment to challenge every HMO application.

She said: "Family homes becoming HMOs can more than double the number of occupants in a particular street, this causes pressure on parking and local services. It also generates a huge amount of waste, fly-tipping and litter are constant features in areas where there are lots of HMOs.

"Some landlords are great and manage the tenancies. Too many are absent landlords and do not manage the tenancies at all. Some are rogue landlords exploiting housing need but allowing sub-standard conditions and dereliction in the state of the property.

"Labour Councillors know their patch very well and understand their communities. It is our job to defend our communities and do what we can to ensure we have balance and cohesion. One result of the turbulence caused by HMOs is that families and settled households feel they are being forced to move out. They object, they complain, they are not listened to, they move. These people are often the most kind, the most neighbourly, they are the ones who provide the glue that keeps communities together."

James Duggan of Eagle Estates in Sheep Street, Northampton said in his HMOs there is a variety of workers who live in shared homes spanning from NHS staff, overseas graduates, lorry drivers, and Morrisons shift workers.

He added: "HMOs offer these people furnished, safe and legislative met homes so they can save to buy, work temporarily, support their spouses, study and much more. There is no alternative for these people. These people need decent quality homes and we provide them.

"There is a small percentage of HMOs rented to students, which cause some neighbours some problems, but the wider scheme here is that for the 300 odd rooms we provide, everyone goes home happy to a warm home with full control of the heating, use of WiFi and TV, in a room fully furnished, a kitchen fully supplied, a sense of safety, and some social communal benefits, which come with living together. Making friends, starting relationships, job opportunities and hobbies all start from here."