This week, I led a Westminster Hall debate on the need for regulation of the exempt accommodation sector. I have had countless reports of constituents living in appalling conditions, with no support whilst cowboy operators cream off extra cash from Housing Benefit payments. Our current system is completely under-regulated, letting down both vulnerable tenants and Ladywood residents. I have seen too many cases of forged rental agreements, of vulnerable women housed with violent men and of people trapped in drugs gangs. I have had residents breaking down, worried that their children are witnessing public drug taking, or urinating in their front gardens, on what were once modest, quiet residential streets that were home to tight-knit communities. This is a lose-lose situation – the only winners are the rogue operators making huge profits.
In the debate, I pressed the Government to introduce tightened regulations and a regulator that has the full range of powers needed to deal with the problem. I want to see a tough “fit and proper persons” test that has to be passed before any provider is allowed anywhere near the sector, no matter how big or small the operator or how many units they have at their disposal. You can find excerpts of my remarks here.
I spoke to Kath Stanczyszyn on BBC West Midlands about these issues as well as the huge waste of public money that is taking place in the dysfunctional exempt accommodation sector. It is estimated that nearly £1 billion of taxpayer’s money is being wasted as there are no checks to ensure that operators are actually providing the services that they are paid for. You can listen to a clip of my interview here.
I was delighted to join the panel of Politics Live this week, where I highlighted Labour’s policy that would reduce working people’s energy bills, which are currently sky-rocketing. The Chancellor is choosing to load costs on taxpayers with a buy now, pay later scheme. Labour will keep bills low with a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers who have made billions in profit, in order to provide consumers with a £600 reduction in their energy bills. Catch up on the programme here.
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, and for all those on half-term enjoy your break!