[Update 15 April 2014: Cllr Edward Smith, a Conservative who chairs Enfield Council’s housing scrutiny panel, has confirmed that the cabinet’s decision will be called in for consideration by the Overview & Scrutiny committee. Given that the committee (and the full council) has a Labour majority, the decision can only be overturned if the Labour councillors can be persuaded that the evidence base for the policy is flawed.]
Enfield Council wants to license private rented sector properties (and private landlords) in order to tackle anti-social behaviour. Is the council justified in taking this action?
The Council’s Cabinet has approved the proposal but there is still time for it to be challenged.
As with any proposed policy, this should have been evaluated against the internationally accepted criteria:
- Needs assessment (the evidence base)
- Program theory (the proposed solution, in theory)
- Process (how it will be implemented in practice)
- Impact (how its effectiveness will be measured/how well it worked)
- Cost-effectiveness (whether it will or has offered good value for money, from all perspectives)
At the Cabinet meeting on 9 April 2014, a deputation made the case against each of these points. The Council’s cabinet member for housing then launched into an attack on the views expressed by Enfield Landlords, despite the group being absent from the meeting. (The Council were expecting them to turn up in force, and had arranged an overflow room and a video relay.) At the end of an hour’s discussion the Cabinet disregarded the views of the deputation and, without even a hint of formality, the policy was approved.
The petition collated by Enfield Landlords had reached the 0.5% of population trigger level (1,562) prior to the Cabinet meeting and the petition will therefore be heard by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee. A petition of 1% (3,124) would be required for it to be heard by the full Council.
Hearing of a petition does not guarantee that the decision will be frozen. However, the “calling in” of a decision, which does freeze the decision, can be achieved either by any 7 councillors calling it in, or the chairman of the housing scrutiny panel calling it in by himself. The decision will then be examined by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, which can then recommend that the decision be upheld, reconsidered or referred to the full Council.
Every Council has their own call-in procedure, as shown by a Centre for Public Scrutiny survey published in 2006. Given the possible time constraints for a call-in, and the forthcoming Easter break, anyone wishing to object would do well to email and phone their local councillor and ask them to call in the decision. The forthcoming local elections might encourage better listening too!
I will be posting further blogs, looking at each aspect of the policy evaluation. Please comment and tweet. You can also send private feedback through the “About” page.