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Burnley councillor denies misconduct slur
A COUNCIL housing chief has dismissed allegations of misconduct after a landlords’ group called for an investigation into his role.
The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) claims Coun Howard Baker, an estate agent, has not properly declared his interest at meetings regarding a selective licensing scheme for property landlords in his Trinity ward.
The body has complained to the council’s chief executive, Steve Rumbelow, and called for ‘an immediate suspension’ of the consultation.
Coun Baker has been Burnley Council’s executive member for housing and development since May 2012.
He is also a director at Hargreaves Street agency Falcon and Foxglove, which markets properties in the Trinity area.
The RLA said Coun Baker’s commercial activity in Trinity was ‘clearly at odds with his elected duties as the lead member handling this consultation’.
A spokesman for the group, which represents almost 17,000 residential landlords, said: “The council’s code of conduct states clearly that where a member attends a meeting discussing an issue where they have a pecuniary interest they should declare it and then remove themselves from the meeting.
“The executive member has attended numerous public meetings in his council capacity, but there appears to be no written record stating a declaration of his pecuniary interest, nor his absence from meetings, when the proposals have been discussed.”
Coun Baker’s professional role as an estate agent is listed on the council’s register of interests and on its website.
He said: “I’m very disappointed the RLA has chosen not to respond to the selective licensing consultation in the normal way.
“I’m looking forward to being able to respond vigorously to the RLA’s accusations in due course. I am confident I have acted properly at all times in my role as executive member.”
Selective licensing requires landlords to pass a ‘fit and proper persons’ test and register with the council with the aim of combating low housing demand and anti-social behaviour, according to a council document in May.
The scheme has been trialled in Trinity since 2008 and a public consultation on a possible five-year extension, as of October, finished last week.
The RLA said Coun Baker, first elected in May 2006, had boasted in an email that selective licensing would lead to: “…better rental levels and a rise in property values as yields increase.” They claim Coun Baker’s estate agency business would therefore benefit from an improving market.
Richard Ashton, RLA policy and communications manager said: “It is crucial that residents in Burnley have confidence in the actions of their councillors when making decisions that could have a significant impact on the supply of much-needed homes.”
Mr Rumbelow said: “We can confirm that a complaint has been received from the Residential Landlords’ Association. This will be considered in line with the council’s procedures.
“Signing up to the scheme obviously means accepting a range of responsibilities and involves costs for landlords, but it has been popular with many residents, and many responsible landlords have seen the scheme as an opportunity to demonstrate good practice.”