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New watchdog sparks reporting burden fear

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Councils should not be subject to a tougher performance regime when they come under the wing of the new social housing regulator, the Local Government Association has warned.

A Community Empowerment, Housing & Economic Regeneration Bill, announced in the draft Queen’s Speech, will extend the Office for Tenants & Social Landlords’ (OfTenant) powers to cover council landlords, including arm’s-length management organisations.

The LGA has campaigned for the move to ensure all social housing tenants receive the same level of housing service.

But Sandra Brown, the LGA’s housing policy consultant, said: “We want local authorities to be brought under the regulator, but it must be done in terms of the local performance regime.” She also warned against a new set of indicators.

OfTenant is being created by the Housing & Regeneration Bill, making its way through the House of Lords, to inspect and regulate all social landlords. The bill contains provisions to subject both housing associations and councils to rigorous inspection and reporting requirements.

Associations are subject to a more exacting regulatory regime than council landlords because they receive private investment.

Meanwhile, a Communities & Local Government Committee report said there was still an important role for councils in increasing the supply and quality of rented housing.

“The ‘strategic’ housing role which [the government] chiefly envisages for local authorities though important, does not address the desire within local authorities to enlarge the supply of council-owned stock and give tenants a real choice of landlord,” chair Dr Phyllis Starkey said.

The committee said 50,000 more social rented homes are needed a year, some of which should be built by local authorities using proceeds from the sale of council houses.

It also said councils should be responsible for accrediting all private landlords and letting agents.

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