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Waltham Forest Council leader vows to clampdown on 'shady' landlords with licensing scheme
The leader of Waltham Forest Council has vowed to tackle the problem of "shady characters" operating as landlords in Waltham Forest.
Cllr Chris Robbins will be officially re-elected by his Labour colleagues this week to serve until 2018 after his party increased its majority hold on power at the local election.
He has vowed to push ahead with a compulsory landlord licensing scheme aimed at protecting tenants' rights and improving living conditions for many people in the borough.
Cllr Robbins said: "There are a number of really good first-class excellent landlords but we also have a number of shady characters that treat people badly and stuff people in where they can.
"They are the type of people that throw out mattresses and leave them there, not the individual tenants."
Cllr Robbins is confident the compulsory licensing scheme will be in force by the end of next year, describing it as vital to protect residents.
The scheme, already in Newham and currently being implemented in Enfield, will offer landlords a reduction in the license fee of 50 per cent if they sign up early.
But non-registration will result in prosecution, Cllr Robbins said.
The council leader sees the scheme as a wider attempt by his party to support those who he believes have been left struggling due to the coalition government's programme of austerity.
And he says welfare reform, and changes to housing benefit in particular, are being keenly felt.
He said: "A lot of my residents have been affected and why wouldn't they be?
"The benefit cap is unrealistic and I don't think anybody knows what a reasonable cap should be.
"They have not taken into account we are one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
"The cost for people to survive in London is astonishing and there has to be some kind of support system to help get out of that poverty trap.
"The Conservatives don't care what happens at the bottom of the pile - to them anybody who is on benefits whatever their circumstance is automatically labelled a 'waster' and that is not the case.
"Some people are being forced to move because they have one extra room. It is unreasonable and now we have to ask people to pay council tax for the first time in their lives because we can't subsidise it. It is outrageous."
However, Cllr Robbins defended the council's attempt to evict a charity soup kitchen from MIssion Grove in Walthamstow, which has led to accusations of ignoring the needs of the disadvantaged.
The High Court recently ruled that the council had acted unlawfully in trying to evict the Christian Kitchen afer 25 years, by not taking the impact on service users into account.
"We were between a rock and a hard place and there were some very difficult anti-social behaviour problems around there," Cllr Robbins said.
"They have to understand and recognise people were frightened to leave their homes and rather than go out on a march, they ring me up and tell me.
"We are very supportive of any organisation that tackles food poverty and I stress there needs to be a more open dialogue.
The Labour leader said he considers the alternative location offered near the Crooked Billet roundabout to be a safe location.
Cllr Robbins said the council will also press ahead with the regeneration of the borough's shopping areas and continue to tackle fly-tipping.
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