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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public

Minutes:

5.1

Controlling Migration Fund

 

 

5.1.1

The Committee received the following questions relating to the Controlling Migration Fund (CMF) -

 

 

 

Question 1 John Grayson

Since the City Council has admitted that they have information stored on the number of people that the Private Housing Standards Team handed over to UKBA ICE staff, how many people were handed over to UKBA ICE from 2014 to the present, specifically by City Council Private Housing Standards officers?

 

 

 

Question 2 Andy Shallice

I’m sure that members of this Scrutiny Committee will be aware that since the previous Housing Cabinet Member addressed the Parliamentary Women’s and Equality Select Committee inquiry into the Government policy concerning Gypsy, Roma ad Travellers, that Select Committee has recommended to Government that “all local authorities with Roma populations should consider selective licensing to prevent exploitation in the private rented sector.”

 

The same parliamentary inquiry heard from a government minister that 22 CMF projects supported Roma communities around the country.  We – like you might be – are distrustful of those figures.  Nevertheless, we understand that some CMF projects can be focused on improving the conditions and opportunities for Roma (and other migrants).  We example the recent award to this Council of £198k for a ‘Welcome to Sheffield’ programme.

 

My question is this.  Based on the successful CMF bid (October 2018).   This bid states that “we have particular concerns over recent undocumented, unlawful immigration into the LAC area, linked to private rented housing accommodation which is often of a very poor standard”:

1.         In the June 2018 Cabinet report declaring the SL, there is no mention at all about the impact of migration.  When and why did the Council decide to apply for CMF for additional resources in the LAC SL area?

2.         (p9) In regard to the LAC SL and the proposed East area, what outcomes have been achieved by the employment of intelligence officers (seconded from SYP and HMRC)?

3.         (p13) Has there been an impact on e.g. the prevention of exploitation of migrant labour in LAC and in the East?

4.         (p15) Could you identify the number and focus of referrals made in the East by the additional CMF resources – outside the housing conditions and tenant/landlord relations?

5.         (p15) finally, could you estimate the additional housing investment made by landlords in properties covered by LAC?

 

 

 

Question 3 Phillis Andrew

Why will Sheffield City Council, claiming to be a City of Sanctuary, not join 11 Labour Councils, including Liverpool, Oxford, Brent, Croydon, Enfield, Islington, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Newham and Rugby, in refusing to share personal data of undocumented migrants with the Home Office unless explicit consent has been given?

 

 

 

Question 4 Stuart Crosthwaite

The Sheffield City Council bid for Controlling Migration Funding for the Private Housing Standards team states that 'intelligence' will be 'shared with partner agencies'. Do these agencies include the Home Office, Borders Agency/UKBA or any other immigration enforcement agencies?

 

 

 

Question 5 Councillor Francyne Johnson

'What's the opinion of this Committee on positive references being made in the Controlling Migration Fund bid proposal to Government Hostile Environment Policy Right to Rent, which was ruled unlawful on the grounds of racial discrimination in the High Court in March this year'?

 

'Does the Scrutiny Chair agree that the Controlling Migration Fund decision should have been listed for discussion in its own right as a separate agenda item; particularly taking into account that this decision could potentially be said to be a key decision, covering more than one Ward, being worth a significant sum of money and conflicting with an existing policy that of Sheffield's status as a City of Sanctuary'?

 

 

5.1.2

The Chair, Councillor Ben Curran, stated that everyone will get a written response to their question.  With regard to Francyne Johnson’s second question asking whether the decision taken relating to the CMF fund should have been listed separately, Councillor Curran said that, although there had been an attempt to call-in the decision, the Monitoring Officer had said that the decision had been taken correctly, by an ffuicer, and it was not a key decision, and Councillor Curran said the rationale behind the Monitoring Officer decision would be circulated to Members of the Committee, but added that, due to the level of concern, the issue will be a substantive one and he wants to see Council policy upheld. 

 

 

5.1.3

Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, stated that he believed that the existing policy around Sheffield’s status as a City of Sanctuary was where it should be.  He said he would check, but it was his belief that the Council did not share information about people unless someone has criminal intentions.  Councillor Wood said that Selective Licensing was  not going to last forever and that a permanent scheme needed to be put in place for when it does come to an end.  He added that, due to Andy Shallice being a Policy Worker with the Roma Support Group, he would like to arrange a meeting with him regarding his knowledge of the Roma community in Sheffield.

 

 

5.1.4

Mike Fitter, Co-Chair, Sheffield Cohesion Advisory Group, summarised the concerns and recommendations of the Cohesion Advisory Group (CAG) and stated that acceptance of the second grant from the Government's Controlling Migration Fund, to fund additional staff recruitment to the Private Housing Standards (PHS) team, primarily to focus on intelligence-led work in the east of the city where poor housing conditions are believed to be linked to recent migration in to the area, had been approved without an Equality Impact Assessment or consultation having been carried out, as had been the case with the previous applications.  He said that there was a lack of clarity with regard to the Tenancy Sustainment Officers who, in the opinion of CAG, are employed by a community organisation to ensure that they are independent.

 

 

5.2

Selective Licensing

 

 

5.2.1

Ben Manovitch, ACORN, asked the following questions relating to Selective Licensing -

 

 

 

Clarifying questions

 

1.         The report refers to 81 properties (half of those that have been inspected) having ‘serious hazards’: does ‘serious hazards’ mean a category 1 hazard i.e. a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety?

2.         Of the 49 properties where these were said to be no 'serious hazards' – were there still category 2 hazards?

3.         There appear to have been 34 properties which have been unaccounted for in this report?

 

Substantive questions

 

1.         Why are so many landlords getting past the ‘fit and proper’ test if they are making people live in seriously hazardous conditions?

2.         ACORN has been pushing for selective licensing to be citywide in Sheffield because we have encountered numerous cases of poor housing conditions across the city. This report demonstrates that selective licensing is an effective tool in identifying problems and raising standards. The reality is selective licensing ensures that those who cannot afford to buy their own home, those without means, are not forced to languish in rented houses which are a serious and immediate risk to peoples’ health and safety.

a. Does the Committee agree with this statement?

 

b. Will it now recommend that sufficient resources are made available for selective licensing to be introduced in as much of the city as statute allows?

 

 

5.3

Councillor Ben Curran said that responses to substantive questions 1 and 2 from Ben Manovitch would be provided in the discussion to take place during Item 6 on the agenda – London/ Abbeydale/Chesterfield Road Selective Licensing Update, and that all other questioners would receive written responses.