MP meets with Minister to discuss overcrowding

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Fenland MP Steve Barclay held high level ministerial discussions with Housing Minister Mark Prisk to discuss how the Government can support his campaign for a clampdown on overcrowded housing and unscrupulous landlords.

Meeting with the Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Steve made a formal request for targeted funding for a selective licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation in Fenland and called for authorities implement powers available to them.

The MP also discussed with the Minister the idea of workshops for Councils in and around the Fens to help them share best practice for investigating and successfully licensing HMO’s, which officials are now actively considering.

The MP raised concern at migrant workers living in overcrowded, cramped and exploitative conditions in unlicensed housing and alerted the Minister to the associated problems of antisocial behaviour, vandalism and street drinking which impacts on the local community.

Mr Barclay said: “I had a really positive meeting with the minister and it is great news that action is being taken on HMO’s in North East Cambridgeshire at the highest level of government.

“The minister recognised the need for an urgent crackdown on illegal activity and agreed to work with me on an assessment of all available powers and whether they are being fully exercised at the moment.

“The minister also agreed that he would constructively consider a bid for specific funding for activities on the ground here in Wisbech. The meeting comes at a good time as departmental budgets for the year ahead are currently being finalised.”

The review will be focussed on additional powers councils can use to tackle HMO’s and will also look at measures currently being taken by the dedicated Multi-Agency Taskforce, code named Operation Pheasant.

The multi-agency initiative led by Mr Barclay alongside Cambridgeshire police and HMRC and a number of associated local organizations was launched last year after series of meetings with the Home Secretary Theresa May and HMRC’s top tax official Lin Homer.

Minister Mark Prisk said: “I am very concerned to hear what Mr Barclay has said about the serious problems facing people in his constituency. I recognize the need for a crackdown on illegal activity linked to housing and will work with him over the coming months to assist with these issues.”

The meeting comes as the Operation Pheasant task force prepares for the next phase of its campaign to target criminality linked to houses in multiple occupation, which has seen a number of arrests and raids made in recent weeks.