Government Ministers have been given an in-depth briefing on the coordinated action being taken to combat the problem of rogue landlords in Wisbech.
Councillor David Oliver, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder responsible for community safety, and Sarah Gove, the council’s housing and communities manager, travelled to London last week (July 1) for a high-level meeting with Housing Minister Mark Prisk and Immigration Minister Mark Harper and other senior officials.
They outlined the significant progress being made by the joint task force Operation Pheasant in tackling problems faced by mainly migrant workers living in the private rented sector.
Mr Harper praised the operation’s approach, describing it as “good practice”.
The meeting was in advance of a launch by central Government of a bidding round for funding to tackle rogue landlords. Fenland will be submitting an application.
Afterwards Cllr Oliver said: “We explained the success our joint approach was having in tackling a range of complex issues, including fraud, exploitation, crime and poor property conditions and management.
“It was a very productive meeting. The response was very positive and we are now hopeful of securing extra resources to take the work forward.”
Operation Pheasant is an umbrella partnership made up of Fenland District Council, the police, the Home Office, the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, HM Revenue and Customs , the Department for Work and Pensions, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue and the UK Human Trafficking Centre.
In the six months since the task force was established it has uncovered some shocking examples of overcrowding – including one of nine adults and two children living in a two-bedroom house - and numerous safety hazards.
It has achieved a string of notable successes. These include:
· Six cases of human trafficking
· 57 gangmaster vehicle offences identified and prosecuted
· An information pack produced for tenants giving advice on where to get help and on particular issues such as fire safety, trafficking and pay and conditions
· 26 voluntary repatriations
In addition, more than 120 properties have been visited and nearly 1,000 voluntary questionnaires completed, providing valuable information from people who are usually hard to reach.
The task force is continuing to meet monthly and share all the various agencies’ intelligence.
Since last week’s meeting the Metropolitan Police and a London borough have both contacted Fenland District Council to learn more about Operation Pheasant’s approach.