MID Devon councillors have unanimously agreed that they shouldn’t be paying fees to the government body which oversees social housing.

The regulator for social housing (RSH) is looking to introduce an £8 charge per home for large local authority areas which would set Mid Devon District Council back more than £20,000.

Currently 2,918 properties are managed by the council which are inspected by regulators, in the same way that schools are inspected by Ofsted.

In the past, councils or other social housing providers haven’t been charged for inspections, and the council’s Homes Policy Development Group thinks that’s how things should stay.

Councillors claimed the government is trying “to push charges onto local authorities”.

“Is the government outsourcing the regulatory service now?” asked Cllr Helen Tuffin (Green, Sandford and Creedy). “Is that why it has to be specifically paid for? This is a government body, part of the government machinery, and receives central funds to carry out the work.”

Members were told that they could expect an annual bill if they said yes to the charging plans which are currently the subject of a consultation.

If it goes through, the new fees will come in next July and are said to “take into account the level of benefit that regulated providers receive from being part of a regulated sector” and to make sure there is sufficient income to carry out its role.

Changes to the regulation of social housing were made following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 in which 72 people died and 70 were injured.

Residents of that block had warned the council about concerns with the building three months before the disaster, but their fears weren’t addressed.

An inquest declared that “each and every one of the deaths was avoidable”.

Efforts to improve standards in social housing means a new regime focused on tenants, councillors heard.

There will be regular inspections to check that they are meeting new requirements and the regulator will have new powers to intervene if standards are not being met.

Cllr Sandy Chenore (Lib Dem, Yeo) said: “This service has already been provided at no cost to us. It would be difficult for schools to pick up the bill for Ofsted and equally it is difficult for us to pick up the tab here in what is a very tricky time for us.”

Cllr Natalia Letch (Lib Dem, Upper Yeo and Taw) said she wouldn’t want costs to fall on council tenants.

Alison Stephenson