Examination of Witnesses (Questions 314
WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2001
314. May I welcome you to the Committee? May
I apologise that we are running a little bit late and may I ask
you to introduce yourselves to the Committee?
(Councillor Mole) I am Councillor Peter Mole from
(Mr Robinson) John Robinson, Director, Gateshead Council.
315. Do either of you want to say anything by
way of introduction or are you happy for us to go straight to
(Councillor Mole) May I make two brief points? One
is that comments I may make later on about landlords do not mean
that I am against all landlords but a very small minority. I should
like to make that point straightaway. The other thing is that
we are very enthusiastic about the Government's White Paper and
the way it went forward as well and we do support that. The only
thing is that we do not think it goes far enough. The comment
I should like to make on empty homes is that we think licensing
of landlords would enhance that particular issue.
Chris Grayling: I am delighted by Councillor
Mole's comments about landlords because I have to declare the
fact, which I omitted to do earlier, that I am a very small scale
Mrs Dunwoody: Technically, I suspect, I am as
well because I inherited my mother's house. Technically, much
to my astonishment, I am a landlord.
316. Given the problems you undoubtedly have
in the North East, do you feel that central government is doing
enough to help authorities like your own deal with the problem
of low housing demand?
(Councillor Mole) We are using a great deal of legislation
and I have to say that before we set off on this campaign, we
looked at every piece of available legislation which was there.
The only missing link from government is the licensing of landlords,
and there is quite a lot of other apparatus which John Robinson
317. Do you feel that a housing market renewal
fund should be set up?
(Councillor Mole) The answer is yes. I do believe
that and we really do need to get round and look at those issues
318. To what degree are you working together
with other authorities in your region to tackle low demand on
a combined strategic basis?
(Councillor Mole) I am the Chair of the North East
Regional Housing Forum which is a very integral part. For the
last two years we have been working with the other local authorities
in Tyne and Wear, working with mortgage lenders, house builders,
landlords, and we meet once every six weeks to discuss the issue
of housing. Discussing that issue is a very important part of
where we are coming from, especially in the northern region. I
think I was given this job in the new Cabinet system as a penance
for something I did in the past, but I believe that was the missing
element. I do believe in talking to other local authorities in
depth, because boundaries have been a big problem in local authorities
in my 27 years in local government. Over the border you have a
leisure centre and they want to build another one close to it.
That is one of the things we have tried to get away from in some
of the plans we have in the region and in Tyne and Wear through
this consultation with the forum.
319. Obviously a lot of work is taking place
in Newcastle at the moment, the Going for Growth strategy and
so forth. How does that impact on Gateshead?
(Councillor Mole) Probably one of the things we are
very far forward with is the partnership with Newcastle and Gateshead
for the future and we are talking about that. The impact in Gateshead
is that we have a great deal of development in Gateshead itself,
some £500 million of building work going on in Gateshead
with art galleries and the rest of it. The impact has been a fluctuation
between the two areas. That was always going to happen. When I
worked in heavy industryand bythe way I have long memorywe
would not travel for more than three or four miles to the factory
we worked at. Times have changed. We have an integrated transport
system to take us to those places, so people do not have to live
around those areas. There has been a movement between the two,
but it has not affected Gateshead as much probably as some of
the rural areas.