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Landlord councillors allowed to vote on housing issue at Barnet Borough Council meeting
Anger flared at last night’s full council meeting after several councillors were given special permission to vote on a housing issue - despite having a financial interest in the matter.
Labour councillor Ross Houston tabled a motion called “fairness and good standards in the private rented sector” making it compulsory for all private landlords to be part of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme.
Several Conservatives who own land in the borough sought dispensation to enable them to be vote on the agenda item at full council.
Conservatives voted in favour of this, but Labour councillors and lone Liberal Democrat Jack Cohen rejected it.
Conservative councillors Dean Cohen, Melvin Cohen, Tom Davey, Helena Hart, Mayor Hugh Rayner, Brian Sallinger and Peter Zinkin, all declared interests in the private rented sector at the start of the meeting.
During the debate on Cllr Houston's motion, Labour Underhill councillor Tim Roberts, who admitted he owns a property in Barnet that he lets out, left the chamber.
An amended version of the motion, which did not include the landlord accreditation scheme requirement, was passed by the Conservatives.
Anger arose after the meeting, with Labour party activist Sian John saying: “Tory landlords allowing themselves to vote on their own pecuniary interests - isn’t that like turkey farmers voting for Christmas?”
Mayor Cllr Hugh Rayner is currently under investigation over allegations he acted “illegally” towards tenants living in the properties he owns.
Among a string of charges, he is accused of turning up to a tenant’s house unannounced at 10pm with a contract to be signed, and charging 55 per cent above market rate.
During the meeting, protestors sat in the public gallery waving banners calling for Mayor Rayner to resign.
Labour leader Councillor Alison Moore said: “What they did was legal, but deeply regrettable. I am disappointed the Conservatives didn’t see their proper moral obligation and leave the room.
“They stayed in to defeat a Labour motion about supporting good landlords.
“Ordinary residents n Barnet will think it very strange that Hugh Rayner, who is known to be a private landlord, remained and chaired the meeting.”
Deputy leader of Barnet Council Cllr Dan Thomas, said: “It’s a storm in a teacup.
“The council wasn’t drawing up accreditation, just debating it. Asking landlords to leave the room would have been a bit extreme.
“The council wasn’t creating its own scheme or standards. It was quite useful to have landlords to be able to speak and contribute on that debate, and vote on it.”