Row over housing stock quality sparked by councillor’s tweet

Camden Town Hall. Photograph: Camden Council

A row amongst Camden councillors over the condition of Camden’s housing stock has been sparked by a 42-character tweet.

A dig was made on social media on 12 September by Cllr Rishi Madlani (Lab, Bloomsbury), chair of Camden Council’s pension committee, below the line of a Citizen story on the high number of prosecutions brough against rogue landlords in the borough.

Cllr Madlani commented: “How many of these [rogue landlords] were Tory councillor JB?”

It is understood that ‘JB’ in this instance refers to ex-Conservative councillor for Belsize ward Jonny Bucknell, who was deselected from running in 2018’s local elections having been fined for failing to complete improvement works to a house he was renting out in Chalk Farm.

Camden’s Conservative group responded coldly to Cllr Madlani’s remark, and in a statement turned the conversation to the council’s own record on housing in the borough.

Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town), leader of the opposition on the council, said: “Camden’s own council housing stock is the second worst-maintained in the country, with 5,501 council homes in Camden falling below the minimum national standards.

“In the last year, that number increased by over 2,600, more than anywhere else, and fifty times the number of prosecutions [of rogue landlords] that Camden has brought.

“If Camden Council wants to improve housing conditions in the borough, they should start with addressing their own disgracefully dilapidated properties. It’s never too late for them to put away the insults and get on with their day job.”

Camden Council have committed to making sure homes in Camden are “safe, well-managed and well-maintained,” as part of the Camden Plan stretching through to 2025.

The borough has struggled over housing quality in the past, with reports in 2015 of 28 per cent of housing stock deemed to be ‘non-decent’ under the Decent Homes standard demanding social housing be in a reasonable state of repair.

Cllr Meric Apak (Lab, Kentish Town), cabinet member for better homes, spoke in defence of the council’s housing strategy, saying that substantial investments and building programmes are planned against a continuing background of government austerity.

Cllr Apak said: “Despite government enforced rent reductions costing us £69million cumulatively, we’ve invested £192m into improving the quality of our council housing since 2013, and will invest a further £290m in the coming years.

“We’ve replaced over 4,000 kitchens and bathrooms, repaired roofs and windows across 4,500 homes and replaced lifts and heating systems.

“We are also completing enhanced fire risk assessments and works as part of a new standard of resident safety across Camden.

“We’re building over 1,000 new council homes and additional affordable homes through our Community Investment Programme – a programme we’ll be able to expand if Government allow us to borrow more.”