Shabana has written to Birmingham City Council regarding a planned enquiry into supported exempt accommodation.
In November 2022, the Council voted in favour of a motion supporting an independent inquiry into the growth of exempt housing in Birmingham.
For some time, Shabana has raised concerns that Birmingham’s practices for approvals are not in line with other local authorities. Last year, an article by Birmingham Live indicated that over £186 million in housing benefit is being paid out to a single provider, Reliance, that the Regulator of Social Housing has deemed non-compliant.
In her letter, Shabana welcomes the prospect an inquiry after her longstanding campaigning work on this issue.
Shabana asks for any inquiry to focus on the Benefits and Revenues service at the Council.
You can read the letter in full below.
Letter to the Council
Dear Ian and Sharon
I write further to my letter of 18th November 2022, regarding supported exempt accommodation.
I am aware that at a meeting of the city council in November, a motion was passed supporting an independent inquiry into the growth of exempt housing in Birmingham. In light of the DLUHC select committee report into the sector and my ongoing campaigning on this issue, I am in full support of an investigation into the sector in our city.
I remain of the opinion that the root of Birmingham’s problems can be traced back to the Benefits and Revenues team at the Council. For some time, I have been informed that Birmingham’s practices for approvals are in line with other local authorities. Only last month an article by Birmingham Live indicated that over £186 million in housing benefit is being paid out to a single provider, Reliance, that the Regulator of Social Housing has deemed non-compliant.
I hope you would agree that any inquiry should attempt to lift the lid on why providers and landlords themselves believe that Birmingham is a soft touch when it comes to administrating and approving enhanced housing benefit. I would expect answering this question would be a priority of this enquiry as we seek to get to the bottom of the explosive growth of exempt housing in Birmingham.
I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions regarding the inquiry:
- Who will be invited to Chair the inquiry and what qualifications they have to lead such an investigation?
- What terms of references the inquiry will work to, and what involvement elected representatives will have in setting them?
- What the timescale of the inquiry will be and when we can expect it to report?
It is clear that the issue of exempt housing is not going to go away. It is essential that we do right by taxpayers and our tight-knit residential communities, which have been blighted by rogue providers and substandard accommodation, and sort out this mess once and for all.
I look forward to receiving your response.
Shabana Mahmood MP