MP calls for changes

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Fenland MP Steve Barclay is to meet with the Housing Minister to discuss further measures to tackle rogue landlords and crack down on overcrowded housing in Fenland.

Steve asked the minister a parliamentary question calling for changes to the licensing system for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) in Fenland. He secured the high level discussions with Minister Mark Prisk in order to raise awareness of the issues associated with HMO’s and their impact on local communities.

Steve will update the minister on the progress made by the Multi-Agency taskforce ‘Operation pheasant’ launched in March.

The concerted efforts of Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire Police, the Gangmasters Licensing authority and many other agencies involved in the taskforce have so far made positive steps to investigate several hundred houses in Fenland where many people live in overcrowded and poor conditions.

Mr Barclay said: “There is still much to be done to clear up the issues of landlords and Illegal Gangmasters who are exploiting the most vulnerable members of our community.

“However, it is great news that over the last few months the taskforce has succeeded in carrying out over 150 visits to affected properties and that fire services and council inspectors have taken steps to correct faults and fire hazards which pose a risk to residents.

“The steps taken so far to address associated issues such as anti-social behaviour, human trafficking and primitive living conditions will go a long way to making our communities safer and more responsible.

“HMO’s are a matter of real concern for residents of Fenland, and I look forward t meeting the minister to discuss the next stages of the campaign and what more can be done at both a local and national level to change the rules surrounding this issue.

The meeting follows a series of joint Police and Gangmaster licensing authority operations in which 57 offences were identified and action was taken against 20 vehicles.

The Task force has also uncovered cases of human trafficking involving migrant workers being kept against their will.

In his address to a Westminster Hall debate last week the local MP highlighted the plight of migrant workers who are forced to pay high fees for their cramped lodgings and are often threatened by unscrupulous landlords.

As part of the Task Force campaign Fenland District Council has produced an information pack for Landlords to help raise standards and living conditions in private rental properties in Fenland.

The Minister has also written to Steve outlining plans to involve the council in a forthcoming “Beds in Sheds” task force led by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

“The action being taken on the ground as well as concerted efforts from councils and government to tackle the problem of rogue landlords and HMO’s is a top priority for all of those working to improve social and economic development in Fenland. The task force offers us a real opportunity to make a long-term difference and I will be working with all agencies to maintain the momentum of our campaign”, he said.