He praises PT’s St Michael’s Gate campaign...but he won’t change the law:
The housing minister has ruled out bringing in legislation to prevent a repeat of the St Michael’s Gate scandal after addressing the issue in Parliament. Following months of anger fromcity residents Gavin Barwell publicly commented on the evictions at St Michael’s Gate for the first time at a debate hosted by MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson.
MrBarwellagreedwithMr Jackson’s assessment that it was an “Alice of Wonderland world” where a company can evict tenants then charge councils to move homeless people into the properties.
But speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph he said: “Stewart was saying this was donetomakemoremoneyand landlords do that all the time.
“I understand how people feel, but it’s legitimate for a landlord to decide what to do with an asset. If you pass a law tostopthatfarfewerlandlords will rent out their homes.”
Speaking at the debate in the Grand Committee Room, which was attended by just himself and Mr Jackson, he said: “It seems to be a highly irrational way for a company and a city council to behave.
“The key answer is to increase the supply of housing.”
Peterborough City Council is paying housing firm Stef & Philips nearly £3 million over threeyearstousethehomesat StMichael’sGateforovernight accommodationforhomeless people. This was agreed after the company began evicting 74 tenants and their families from the estate.
Mr Barwell, who praised the PTforit’s St Michael’s Gate campaign, has agreed to look at the management fees companies like Stef & Philips can charge for putting up homeless people in temporary accommodation.
Currently i t can charge the council £60 per household per week as well as what households can claim for housing benefit.
The minister added that the Government is spending millions of pounds to tackle homelessness and has toughened the law to make it harder for councils to movepeople outside of its catchment area.
He told the PT: “I have every understanding of how [the residents] feel. I think there are real questions about the behaviour of the company.”
Mr Jackson during the debate described Stef & Philips as “unscrupulous.” He said: “We are in a crazy Alice in Wonderland world. We have createdhomelesspeopleinor-
MP Stewart Jackson speaks at the Parliamentary debate and, inset, city council chief executive Gillian Beasley meets residents.