Labour parliamentary candidate for East Thanet Polly Billington: The need to improve private rentals

Polly Billington has been selected to represent Labour at the next General Election Photo Julian Newick

A year ago Liz Truss as the Tory prime minister trashed the economy blowing a £60 bn hole in it. We are all paying the price right now.

This week the current Tory prime minister decided to do the same for our long term economy by slamming the brakes on shifting to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy. There is one measure he announced that will hit residents in Thanet faster and harder than others.

That’s the decision not to enforce better standards on private rented accommodation to keep energy bills down for tenants.

There are tens of thousands of people paying rent to private landlords in Thanet. With pressure on housing as prices and rents rise, many really struggle to get through the month without ending in debt.

In 2020 nearly a third of the Thanet population were on a low income, defined as less than £15,988 a year. Average earnings were £462.50 per week, in the bottom 20% of the whole of England. This means those who are renting in the private sector are spending more than 50% of their earnings on living costs. And that was before the invasion of Ukraine and spiralling energy costs.

Rishi Sunak had the chance to make at least one thing a bit easier for them permanently by insisting that the people that own the homes improve the buildings so they are less drafty, damp and cost less to keep warm during the winter months. He chose not to.

Craig Mackinlay says this decision is “sensible and pragmatic”. Tell that to the people shivering in their drafty homes this winter.

A lot of our housing stock, especially homes that are privately rented are old, cost a lot to heat and often don’t have modern efficiency measures that can keep bills down. From wall and loft insulation to new heating kit, many of these homes need a proper refurb, especially because about ten years ago the then Tory prime minister David Cameron decided to “cut the green crap” and stop efforts to make our homes cheaper to run. Now his successor is doing the same, letting private landlords off the hook and leaving tenants with huge bills.

I know that costs for landlords are rising, with higher interest rates driving higher prices all round. Many people will have chosen to rent out a property to gain some income and that is being squeezed. The government isn’t helping them either.

Cutting the requirements to improve rental properties will not only leave people with higher bills but also poorer health as they choose between heating and eating. Rising costs can often drive people into homelessness and destitution. It’s the biggest cause of homelessness in Thanet.

That’s why I will be campaigning hard to ensure Labour’s commitment to invest £6billion a year in refurbishing our homes makes a difference here in Thanet, helping landlords improve their properties and making those homes comfortable and affordable to heat and run for tenants.

That money will also be invested in social homes and will support those who own their own homes too.

When people – including East Thanet’s Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay – say the “net zero” agenda drives up costs they are wrong. The benefits of acting now are lower bills for many households (about £500 a year off the average bill), more jobs created and a growing industry that can eventually improve all of our homes.

This will be the second winter we are facing paying Putin’s premium for expensive energy. At a time when bills are rising it’s not the time to cut help for private tenants or cut off the chance to create jobs and support the construction industry.

It’s short sighted and proves that once again the current government and our local MP have turned their back on the future.



  1. You do understand the interplay of Supply & Demand that create Equilibrium Price?
    You want lower equilibrium prices then stop supporting the unnecessary increase in demand from those who are not legally here.

  2. “a growing industry”? How many industries have been ruined by this net zero nonsense? Time to re-open the airport, re-invest in Kent coal mines and re-build power stations.

    • I asked her that question some time ago Broadstairs resident, and didn’t get an answer! I never vote for people who fail to reply to my letters/ emails. Ms Billington should be aware that if Manston re-opens low flying aircraft at less than 300 meters high, over Ramsgate Harbour will destroy the highly valued hospitality business there, putting hundreds out of work!

        • Well Ms Pink, the last lot to try and make Manston viable only had 4 aircraft, and one was usually in for servicing at any given time! When they went bust it stranded hundreds of people overseas, and I used to bike out there to see how many cars were left in the car park. It took about 3 weeks before all the cars were gone, except for one lonely old Mercedes! Manston failed multiple times as a passenger airport, due to lack of demand!

  3. Unfortunately, this is another short sighted view of the world. Improving properties is a great concept, but as a small private landlord, any expenditure I make on a rental property will be recovered from the tenants in increased rents. The income is my pension and is supposed to turn a profit. So, I assume that government should pay for the upgrades. Who pays for that? The taxpayers, including small landlords, who will have to put up rents to cover it. The simple answer: I will get out of the rental business, sell my rental houses to DFL’ers and my tenants will go to the council for rehousing at taxpayer expense. Please think again and come up with a holistic approach to the problem.

    • My heart bleeds.
      When you pay off your mortgage (if you haven’t already) will you reduce the rent by a huge amount to reflect the enormous drop in your outgoings?
      Just think, if you hadn’t snapped up this second home to ensure a luxurious old age, your tenant might have had a chance to buy.

      • That argument falls apart in an investment environment, once the mortgage is paid off on your property , if for example it’s worth 200k, then is it not reasonable to want it to return at least what that money could earn in the bank? ( though to be fair the actual amount should affect the sum realised if the property was sold and all taxes paid) , this effectively replaces the business cost of the interest payments made on a mortgage. Which the government has decided are no longer allowable as a business expense in full , another policy that has increased rents.
        The real problem is that the nation has decided that we’ll have a low wage low skilled economy along with an extensive benefits system for both those in and out of work, these policies have also meant we’ve bought in huge numbers of low skilled workers who in turn often end up needing help with their housing costs, not to memtion the need for ever more homes. Hence the huge amount of building in east kent and along the thanet way and m2 corridors.
        Ending up in the tangled web we have now.

      • They won’t buy them , the council could pick up quite a few “right to buy “ properties but choose not to, which seems odd as they are generally cheaper than average, are usually within council run housing and returns control of such housing to the council.

  4. Is this a new area she is fighting, because I understood, we had North and South Thanet, if I have understood correctly, this Councilor has come from the Borough of Hackney, (yes another DFL) who is also a great believer in ULEZ, can you imagine Thanet Council, looking forward to filling there Coffers with all that extra cash.

  5. Billington is the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet [2] and previously was the candidate for Thurrock at the 2015 general election and a Labour Party official. She is a Strategic Adviser to UK100,[3] and councillor for De Beauvoir ward in the London Borough of Hackney.
    So the question is, what does she know about South Thanet, and will she move to the area?

    • The thanet constituency boundaries are changing and we’ll have an east and west instead of the old north south. So the headline is correct.
      The rest about private landlords is disjointed and disengenuous, there is plenty of legislation the council can use to make sure properties are of a good standard, but the council will bleat about lack of resources and often do little, it also has to be borne in mind that if the council takes enforcement action to the extent that the existing tenants need rehousing the council is liable and last but not least , as is the way of the world, the worst tenants usually end up in the worst housing , the council and housing associations don’t want many of these tenants and so turn a blind eye to the conditions they live in.
      As for the issue of energy efficiency, had the proposal to improve to a C have gone forward , large numbers of landlords would have chosen to exit the sector and sell, the basic economics mean that any expenditure on improvements over and above the current legal requirement would need to be recouped over a period of around 10 years ( for most landlords) the increased rent to do this would in most cases exceed the savings the tenant would make on their bills.
      Finally the biggest factor in the size of energy bills is tenant behaviour and lifestyle , some want to wander round in a sub tropical fug boiler running flat out in shorts and t shirt in mid winter and not surprisingly their bills are way higher than those willing to put on a jumper and use the radiator valves and boiler controls provided.
      As for the notion that there will be grants and schemes to help landlords in the years ahead, that is only going to make them put off doing anything until absolutely necessary, would it not be better to offer tax breaks to those that do things willingly? Lower capital gains tax or additional tax free allowances for meeting defined goals?
      Last but not least , plenty of numbers about those that don’t meet Polly’s lofty ideals but no numbers for those that already do, nor figures in relation to the efficiency of social housing which will no doubt be seeking taxpayer support in due course.

  6. Polly, who’s been out and about in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, quite rightly is focused on the plight of residents finding themselves victims of the disastrous Tory economy. Sunac may want us to focus on his self-selected targets but a Tory combination of years of austerity, Truss inspired interest rates and his failure to uprate housing allowance has left a record number struggling as never before. Underlying this is a chronic shortage of housing to rent, caused by years of failure to build social housing, and Sunac’s belief that private sector housing will provide. For so many in Thanet it wont. The new Labour administration has made a start with 50 or so council houses with the promise of many more to come. Building more will help stabilise prices by reducing demand and incidently increase employment.

    • Rather than being focused on the rents being asked for new tenancies why not look also at the rents being paid by existing often long term tenants. The LHA system is a flawed concept in that effectively sets the floor for rents, by ever increasing it , you only force up rents across the whole spectrum of properties.
      It’s coveniently forgotten that legislative changes have driven up rents and any future ones will do the same. One of the biggest barriers to new tenants is the now common requirement from landlords for a good guarantor , this largely as a result of the Renters Reform Bill which proposes to do away with section 21, often referred to as a no fault eviction, where as in fact its the legal manner in which a Assured Short Term Tenancy can be ended and which a tenant is aware of when they sign a tenancy agreement.
      In the last 20 years the social sector has been responsible for 80% of evictions a figure that is rarely mentioned when politicians embark on their landlord bashing.

  7. Why would I vote for a Hackney Borough Councillor, no knowledge of any part of Thanet, the people of Thanet. Just another parachutist from the Layabout party.

  8. Labour Party. Not Layabout Party. The Tories are hellbent on filling their own pockets and making Britain into an impoverished and uneducated nation.

  9. I have no time for David Green or the Labour party,but I have even less sympathy for whingeing rentiers complaining about the lack returns on investments.Sell up and be damned and then some of those first time buyers might be able to buy,as they did in the 1970s & 1980s when many of the whingeing landlords got on the property ladder.
    In Britain we have a bad habit of not investing in businesses which we start and the rented sector is no different.
    As for suggesting that the social sector evicts more tenants than the private sector is just hooey.Even if this outrageous lie had any truth who rehoused evicted tenants? Yes,the social housing sector. Why is housing benefit a real headache for the treasury? Could it be increasing rent demands? Housing benefit is e major part of the social welfare budget as is the triple lock pension system,so I would all keep quiet if I were you.
    Sunak told us why he was resiling on cross party supported climate change policies was to benefit those suffering in the cost of living crisis his predecessors created.
    Many of the lowest paid are struggling with unaffordable rents and rising food prices.Insulating houses would increase the value of the property ,enable tenants to pay their bills more easily and keep them warm in winter However the latter day Ebenezer’s,climate change deniers and the terminally unpleasant in our midst prefer instead to play politics.
    Even Sunaks own party and voters does seem that he is hoping to dash free from the grip of ever poorer election results,by creating nominal blue water between his Govt and opposition.Trouble is his blue wall voters are not in agreement and many in his party don’t agree, especially one Boris Johnson.
    The fact that his own Tory electors preferred mad Queen Truss over him speaks volumes.
    Finally, Ms Billington is a blown in from eleswhere,but do is MacKinlay and most MPs.Canterbury has a local for an MP,but I suspect our mysognist fringe here in Thanet would not like her either.
    I do hope when Thanet receives its share of extreme weather there will be no moans from any here.You may not believe in climate change,but it does not care,and like the big bad wolf it will blow down your little fantasies.


      Read the section context and trend in evictions, where was the furore about evictions when the social sector evicted more people? Only seems to be an issue now that the private sector evicts more.

      As regards to investment in their properties , the criminal section of landlords whom the council should be dealing with aside, landlords have to certify the electrics, legionella risk assessments, fire safety, gas safety and the multiple sections of the Housing Health safety Rating System HHSRS to comply with, very few private homes will come upto the same standard if tested.
      Landlords have no redress if tenants trash carpets in 5 years if they have kids and 7 years if just adults in the property ( how many owner occupiers work on such a short life for carpet?) Tenants have the benefit of just needing to pick up the phone for repair issues , they can live pretty much as they choose and the landlord is initially seen as in the wrong when it comes to damp and mould.
      The narrative in the media and from our politicians attacks the whole sector on the behaviours of relatively few landlords , if this behaviour was repeated in pretty much any other area it would be seen as discriminatory and stigmatising .
      The vast majority of landlords would quite happily have their properties inspected and signed off , so long as the council dealt with those found lacking ( including the council itself) .
      It somehow seems that people think rental costs are immune from inflation, then on top you have the additional costs added to the sector over the years from legislative compliance. In 1999 the going rate for 1 and 2 bed properties in cliftonville was 360 and 450 per month , put those through an inflation calculator and you get 655 and 819, then add on the various extra costs from electrical tests, right to rent, legionella, fire safety, etc , not to mention the increased demand for property due to lack of supply and thanets increasing popularity to incomers.
      I have couples who approach me for flats , whose incomes are over 30k from benefits alone , they do nothing and when you look up their social media profiles have rather dubious activites , pass times and live in a manner that means I wouldn’t rent to them. There are other more suitable tenants out there. If such couples are deemed by the state to be worth so much to support their lifestyles for doing nothing, how much is my time and investment worth as a landlord?
      On the flipside i have longstanding tenants whose rents lag the inflation adjusted figures above by over 20%, rents generally only increase to the local market rents when new tenancies commence.

  10. I will be spoiling my ballot unless there is a someone standing from Richard Tice’s party. I will not vote for a party that does not know what a woman is,I will not be voting for a party that condones men in female spaces such as toilets, changing rooms, hospital wards, rape and domestic abuse crisis services and toilets, I will not not vote for a party that supports drag acts infront of children, I will not be voting for a party that does not support Brexit and I will not be voting for a party that supports uncontrolled migration.

    • A website is being set up detailing every candidate’s answer to the whole gender question, including videos filmed during door step campaigns. So, this is going to become a major issue in the next election – and unless the Constantines and Billingtons of this country clarify their stance on the subject, it could well lose them votes.

      • They will lie to get the vote 🗳, I will never vote for them, the Labour women in Thanet jump around claiming to be feminists, feminists my ar$e.

      • Ms.Pink, irony or stupidity? You are Peter so I assume male. Your nom de garre is ‘Ms.’ so female. How do you self-identify, perhaps none of my business? But when you pontificate about the subject in public it becomes public business. Can you please stop doing your business in public!

      • Nonsense. Everything Peter Checksfield writes is simply there because he has a desperate need for attention. What is “the whole gender question” anyway? The way people describe themselves, apropos gender, is hardly a matter for the general population. It is a personal decision.

          • One suspects that even more important to the majority of people are both the financial costs and restrictions caused by the whole “net zero” fiasco. If we really want to compete on the world stage with other major nations, then it’s time we started using what is literally below our feet, instead of importing much of our energy from elsewhere.

            Ms. Pink

          • Wait, I’m sorry, you now are advocating for women Peter? Where have you been? Because I haven’t see you marching for woman’s rights, shouting about unequal pay or fighting to change the ridiculously low conviction rate for women who have been sexually assaulted? Why now? I mean what is it about the TRANSGENDER ISSUE that has made you care about women? BTW hope your naked lady book is selling well.

  11. What they did last time in Ramsgate was fill the hustings audience up with Labour supporters so that when any other political persuasion asked for a ticket to attend they said that all the tickets were gone. They loaded the audience with lefties and left everyone else out, they are very underhand and devious. Regards KAREN the TERF.

  12. Thanet Greens have a motion going to Thanet Council to halt house larger building plans until a review of need and ability to meet infrastructure is completed. National Green policy is “the right homes (well built with decent insulation, solar generation, etc), in the right places (according to local need rather than some Westminster opinion) at the right price (both for sale and rentals)”.
    Will PollyB tell TDC’s Lab majority they should support this? I wonder?

  13. I have been a landlord and a tenant and my experience of the latter,is one of negativity.
    The reason why councils are not buying your under maintained properties is because of higher interest rates and the egregious council house sale system where social housing ends up in the hands of landlords at a discount on the market price.
    The private rented sector has nothing but it self to blame for its poor reputation and all the moaning and excuses exhibited here are unlikely to change public attitudes towards landlordism.As long as there are individuals like old Fergus the bogy man in Ashford,rackrenting and discriminating, landlords will not get a good press.
    It’s a free market,sell up if you don’t like being a landlord.Voting Tory or Reform UK won’t change the situation for landlordism.
    As for the mysognist fringe,you are swimming against the tide of history,or you would if the sea was not full of sewage.Talking about sewage,how are you going Pink Checksfield?
    At least 50% of the population are female,and they want to be treated fairly,without being molested,or frightened,or being shouted at,by ageing key board warriors,who have done nothing with their lives except stay in one place.
    I for one,am quite prepared to see more women in parliament,Liz Truss and Suella Braverman excepted.

    • Priti Patel is my heroine.

      As for females being “treated fairly,without being molested,or frightened”, isn’t that what the whole gender debate is about? Yet even our beloved NHS wants to erase the words like “woman” and “mother”.

    • You seem to have labelled my expressing an alternative narrative along with a few facts as moaning it’s not, merely an explanation. Most landlords just adapt as new legislation and requirements unfold and charge accordingly, at a time of high demand it’s only going to have a negative impact on the tenants who ultimately pay the price of the changes.
      When you consider the events at Lakanal, Grenfell, mould and damp in the social sector and close to home tdc having over 100 homes with no current gas cert at one point, perhaps there should be more of a spotlight on the social sector.
      Private landlords would quite happily build new properties to rent out but if they do so cannot reclaim the vat incurred doing so, as a result it makes far more sense to buy an existing property.
      The social sector , pays no tax, doesn’t provide its tenants with floor coverings in most instances ( other than those left behind by the previous tenant) , private landlords need to provide their own sick pay and pensions, council staff have their provided from the council tax payer at large, the social sector gets bailed out by the taxpayer when it comes to property improvements ( over 40 billion for the “decent homes standard”) tdc is buying the affordable % on a development , this % is to a degree subsidised by those who have bought the owner occupied homes on the development. Your point about the value of properties sold off under right to buy is incorrect, when sold off the discount effectively reflects the value of the property as having a sitting tenant which effectively does as a council property. That the homes then often end up being bought by landlords when the x tenant eventually sells only reflects how unpopular council estates are for owner occupiers.
      There are two sides to every coin.

      • The social sector does not provide floor coverings, TDC and Orbit remove them after the previous resident has moved out, everything is left as basic as it can be in order that the housing provider can service, maintain and repair at minimum cost. I have told many landlords to remove previous tenants white and brown goods appliances as if the landlord leaves them in the property for the next residents he or she is liable to repair or totally replace them in the event of a fault aswell as paying for them to be PAT tested.

  14. Back to questions for ParachutePolly. She’s the CEO of UK100 Net Zero. Their pledge is:
    We commit to do everything within our power and influence to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and work with our residents and businesses to bring our wider communities’ emissions in line with Net Zero as soon as possible. All goid so far.
    But PP is also the Director of a property company, according to companies house. I wonder what this is?
    Lastly I’d like to hear something from her about the resignation of Hackney’s Mayor over the Dewey scandal. PP is pictured alongside Dewey, now convicted of possession of Cat A images of children (the worst), when elected last May. It’s odd that, in Hackney, PP has said nothing, you might expect some outrage and distancing. Was she at the party the Mayor had? Where he took a selfie with Dewey (after he was told about the arrest and charges) having said he’d had no contact once he’d been told?
    Polly needs to clear the air for even pirates have lines they won’t cross.

  15. Really,PJ!
    Do we care,not a lot!
    Is what happens in Hackney any big need to turn off your laptop and go for a walk to get a broader perspective on life.
    Will it take something so cataclysmic to happen in Thanet,on the scale of what happened in Derna, to see the big picture on climate change,I hope not?
    As for the Pink Checksfield,it’s not names or titles that are important,it is treating people,as you would wish to be treated.Until you understand that fundamental belief,you will remain shouting into a void.
    The country is changing,social attitudes are changing,but it appears that some of us have not moved on.

  16. Maybe Polly Billington can publicly state what she has done to improve private rentals in De Beauvoir ward in the London Borough of Hackney, with proof

  17. So what if the nasty Brexit Tory party are ruining the country all I care about are gender neutral toilets and policeman in rainbow helmets

  18. What is her opinion on the celebrations currently going on in London regarding Palestinians supporting Hamas and Hezbollah regarding the Gaza strip. This behaviour is despicable antisemitism and is being promoted and celebrated by many members of the Labour Party, shameful behaviour.

    • Sparky, I’ve attended many pro-Palestine demonstrations in my time and have had reason to talk to fellow demonstrators (but very few) about slogans that were judeophobic.
      Mostly people are trying to point to the hostile, now apartheid rule of the Israeli State towards Palestinians.
      Right now, with the attack by Hammas, making this point is even more crucial.
      The attack was appalling on any level. But Israel’s behaviour, since its inception (and by its leaders before), has created this bed it now lies on. This does not excuse or justify what Hammas did but helps to explain that violence begets violence. Israel’s response to the attacks is typical of its approach, collective punishment, bombing civilians, etc.
      On PollyB, I wrote to her asking about her opinion on Israeli ethnic cleansing in the Occupied Territories. Despite follow-ups I’ve had no response.
      If you get anything please share.

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