Block the benefits for problem tenants

Councillor Andrew Rodger
Councillor Andrew Rodger
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A LEVENMOUTH councillor wants new legislation to reduce the impact of anti-social behaviour and the misery it spawns.

Andrew Rodger is calling for persistent anti-social tenants to have their housing benefit stopped.

He also thinks Fife Council should be more open with information on the reputation of certain areas if residents are being re-housed.

Cllr Rodger was responding to a complaint over the council’s allocation policy after a Levenmouth woman was reportedly unhappy at being rehomed in an area of East Wemyss.

Cllr Rodger accepted there were Data Protection issues – and a shortage of housing, with around 2000 people in Levenmouth applying for about 60 houses and 50 per cent of the stock having to go to homeless people to meet legislative targets.

But he said the council should be “up front” if it was moving people into areas with a known history of troublesome tenants.

“Most of the people causing problems are on housing benefit, maybe drinking until 4am-5am and having parties,” said Cllr Rodger. “It’s bad enough inflicting this on really good tenants, but they are turning certain places into no-go areas.

“If they don’t behave themselves, let’s take their housing benefit from them.”

However, the move appeared to be ruled out by Cllr David Ross, executive spokesman for housing, communities and local services.

“I think Cllr Rodger understands the council has no power to do this and, while it might sound an attractive way of dealing with problem neighbours, pilot projects have shown it to be impractical and ineffective,” he said.

“It isn’t just people on housing benefits who cause anti-social behaviour and, if the council had sufficient evidence to withhold housing benefit (if this was allowed), there are other actions it could take, including pressing criminal charges.

“I have asked officers to look again at what information is given to prospective tenants about an area they are offered housing in, but it would be difficult and, in most cases, unfair, to ask them to make judgements on what is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ area.”

Cllr Ross said he shared concerns about anti-social behaviour and had discussed the possibility of a report to the Levenmouth area committee with its chair, Cllr Tom Adams.

“Elected members need to know the extent of the problem and what actions the council already takes to tackle instances of anti-social behaviour before they can judge how effective local services are and whether more can be done locally,” added Cllr Ross.

“What’s important is that people come forward and let the council know when problems occur, so it has enough evidence to take action.”