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Graham Awards


Rent controls council pays housing boss £280,000 a year

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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    Most of the housing association management are on similar, or even higher, salaries, just as most charities also pay their management much the same, then they they have the nerve to call landlords greedy, stinks doesn't it ?


    I'm shocked what these people get paid. Polly deserves a smack in the mouth the way she behaves acting in the best interest of tenants and working for a 'charity'!

    Charity obviously starts at home and ends at home with her. Another Champagne Socialist.

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    The term champagne socialist doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s a very lucrative industry - pretending to be on the side of the “oppressed”, while helping yourself to large piles of public money.


    of course it has to be public money,in the private sector they'd be unemployable

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    It’s easy to fix housing crisis get rid of those guys paying themselves £280k pa and in most cases well over £100k anyway including Charity Bosses that doesn’t supply any housing. Those are The Rogues that have driven up Tenants Rents by 52%, while pretending to be helping them. The Tenants friends are their Landlords who have helped them out through thick & thin.

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    I house over 50 tenants for a year for less than that.

    Fire 10 housing bosses and that's another 500 homeless tenants paid for - pity these "housing" bosses haven't built the necessary houses for the homeless whilst trousering their massive pay packets!

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    Imagine if a small private landlord was showing £280,000 as a profit! Polly from shelter would be all over the news telling the whole world
    Bristol council should be ashamed

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    And they claim to be the champions of those with little! These are the villains that live below the radar while filling there pockets. We are made out to be the problem yet they house no one., and the way it’s going as more of us leave the sector actually contribute to homelessness. We really need to be careful who we let into power in this questionable democracy.

  • George Dawes

    Typical labour hypocrite

    At least the Tories don’t pretend to care

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    It is not Private Landlords driving the rents up. It is the Government and Councils Policies Driving Private Landlords out . Creating Problems that do not really exist so they can keep lining their pockets. Most Tenants and Landlords were happily chugging along until Osborn declared open season on Landlords. The two Parties suffering are Good Tenants and Landlords, who are the only ones directly involved .


    You have summed up the problem very succinctly, well done

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    If councils started to work with landlord rather than making them out to be the baddies things wouldn't be going down a path where more and more landlords pull out of the market. They forget that many landlords do maintain their properties (it is their income after all) and try to be as fair with regards to rents.

    Its often forgotten that if a landlord pulls out and sells a house the chances are a private buyer will then be in the house and on average most people stay in their home for 10 years, if they move at all. A rental tenant is likely to move every three years, thus the property comes back up on the market. They also forget that nowadays many people do not want to be tied down to one house. I keep record of why my tenants move and in the last five years many have moved due to -
    1. finding jobs outside the area - 72%
    2. moving in with a partner outside the area - 18%
    Authorities need to understand that the UK housing market is changing and that people no longer want to settle in one location we are becoming more like Europe.

    PS -Not only do many council officials receive large salaries but also big pension contributions.

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    Ann-Marie. very true plus many private Landlords like me are 40% + tax payers so by getting rid of us they are loosing virtually guaranteed income year on year for the sake of a one off payment of c/gains. Every property bought by individual Residents is a huge loss of Revenue to the Treasury every year. Plus landlords pay far higher c/tax and have to pay commercial rates at recycling centres, pay thousands in licensing fees, thousands more in Compliance work plus 20% vat tax on everything, plus thousands in fines & Penalties that you cannot cream off if we are not there. Have you not taught this through where all your soft money is coming from I think you need a reality check ?.


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