Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 314 - 319)




  314. May I welcome you to the Committee? May I apologise that we are running a little bit late and may I ask you to introduce yourselves to the Committee?
  (Councillor Mole) I am Councillor Peter Mole from Gateshead Council.
  (Mr Robinson) John Robinson, Director, Gateshead Council.

  315. Do either of you want to say anything by way of introduction or are you happy for us to go straight to questions?
  (Councillor Mole) May I make two brief points? One is that comments I may make later on about landlords do not mean that I am against all landlords but a very small minority. I should like to make that point straightaway. The other thing is that we are very enthusiastic about the Government's White Paper and the way it went forward as well and we do support that. The only thing is that we do not think it goes far enough. The comment I should like to make on empty homes is that we think licensing of landlords would enhance that particular issue.

  Chris Grayling: I am delighted by Councillor Mole's comments about landlords because I have to declare the fact, which I omitted to do earlier, that I am a very small scale landlord myself.

  Mrs Dunwoody: Technically, I suspect, I am as well because I inherited my mother's house. Technically, much to my astonishment, I am a landlord.

Chris Grayling

  316. Given the problems you undoubtedly have in the North East, do you feel that central government is doing enough to help authorities like your own deal with the problem of low housing demand?
  (Councillor Mole) We are using a great deal of legislation and I have to say that before we set off on this campaign, we looked at every piece of available legislation which was there. The only missing link from government is the licensing of landlords, and there is quite a lot of other apparatus which John Robinson uses.

  317. Do you feel that a housing market renewal fund should be set up?
  (Councillor Mole) The answer is yes. I do believe that and we really do need to get round and look at those issues as well.

  318. To what degree are you working together with other authorities in your region to tackle low demand on a combined strategic basis?
  (Councillor Mole) I am the Chair of the North East Regional Housing Forum which is a very integral part. For the last two years we have been working with the other local authorities in Tyne and Wear, working with mortgage lenders, house builders, landlords, and we meet once every six weeks to discuss the issue of housing. Discussing that issue is a very important part of where we are coming from, especially in the northern region. I think I was given this job in the new Cabinet system as a penance for something I did in the past, but I believe that was the missing element. I do believe in talking to other local authorities in depth, because boundaries have been a big problem in local authorities in my 27 years in local government. Over the border you have a leisure centre and they want to build another one close to it. That is one of the things we have tried to get away from in some of the plans we have in the region and in Tyne and Wear through this consultation with the forum.

  319. Obviously a lot of work is taking place in Newcastle at the moment, the Going for Growth strategy and so forth. How does that impact on Gateshead?
  (Councillor Mole) Probably one of the things we are very far forward with is the partnership with Newcastle and Gateshead for the future and we are talking about that. The impact in Gateshead is that we have a great deal of development in Gateshead itself, some £500 million of building work going on in Gateshead with art galleries and the rest of it. The impact has been a fluctuation between the two areas. That was always going to happen. When I worked in heavy industry—and bythe way I have long memory—we would not travel for more than three or four miles to the factory we worked at. Times have changed. We have an integrated transport system to take us to those places, so people do not have to live around those areas. There has been a movement between the two, but it has not affected Gateshead as much probably as some of the rural areas.

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