Bristol’s Labour council has made a name for itself with policies shifting power from landlords to tenants.
Earlier this year the Mayor, Marvin Rees, teamed up with local anti-landlord activists to look at how to introduce local rent controls in the city, holding a so-called summit on the issue in early March.
At the time he said: “The national housing crisis poses big challenges for our city and tackling it remains one of the council’s top priorities. As well as accelerating the building of affordable housing across Bristol, we are currently strengthening our powers to tackle rogue landlords.”
Rees added that over the last decade, private rents in Bristol had increased by 52 per cent, while wages had only risen by 24 per cent, and on average Bristol residents now needed to spend almost nine times their annual salary to buy a house.
However, it’s now been revealed that the highest paid official in the council earned what the local newspaper called “a staggering” £280,634 - and he was the interim director of homes and landlord services, Donald Graham.
His salary is actually almost £100,000 more than the council’s chief executive Mike Jackson.
The council has been vocal in suggesting that tenants are oppressed by landlords and letting agents.
Back in January 2016 it created a West of England Rental Standard which it relaunched 18 months later, setting out minimum standards which landlords and properties had to meet.
Then in 2021 Shelter and tenants’ groups in Bristol, with council backing, set up a campaign called Fair Renting in Bristol.
In blogs and publicity material the campaigners claim that there are three major themes driving their activities. First that local rents are ”out of control and disproportionate to incomes”; secondly that “disrepair and poor, unsafe conditions are a common issue for renters”; and thirdly that “many of us are locked out of private renting, due to the discrimination we face based on our age, sex, race, disability, type of employment or type of income.”
A Shelter blog goes on to accuse the city’s “unfair private renting system” of “driving poverty and homelessness and breaking up communities.” The campaign claims that since 2011 rents in the city have risen by an average of 52 per cent, whereas wages have risen 24 per cent.
Then more recently Mayor Rees called for powers to be given to him by the Westminster government to levy rent controls.
However in recent months the council has appeared to be losing support.
In May voters decided to abolish the city’s directly elected mayor following a referendum. The city was given the choice of a mayor or a committee system in which decisions are made by groups of councillors. On a 29 per cent turnout 56,113 voted to scrap the post of elected Mayor, held by Labour’s Marvin Rees.
Then just last week a housing committee meeting was disrupted by members of activist group Acorn because they had been excluded - even though the chair of the committee was a Labour councillor who was also a member of Acorn.
Now the local media have exposed the high salary given to homes and landlord services officer Donald Graham. You can see the Bristol Live news website story about the officer here.
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