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Row over council paying 18 estate agents to find homes to buy

A row has broken out over council tax funds being used to pay 18 estate agencies to find homes for a Labour-controlled council to buy.

Enfield council says it is saving £1.5m a year through a programme to cut temporary accommodation for residents, operated by its Housing Gateway ‘arms-length’ organisation.

However, as part of the operation Enfield council has reportedly paid 18 estate agencies fees as part of the purchase costs for 87 homes it is buying. 

Now the local Conservatives - whose Freedom of Information request revealed the spending - say this is a waste. 

Councillor Edward Smith, opposition Tory spokesman on housing on the council, is quoted by the Enfield Advertiser as saying the council is “forking out fees to estate agents to enable it to be told first about properties that are being sold so they can hoover them up. This means that people who have scrimped and saved to buy their first property are being excluded from even knowing that the property has come to market.”

He continues: “[Labour] think it is acceptable to offer fees to estate agents so first-time buyers don’t find out about properties they might be able to afford is simply wrong. And to then refuse to say how much money they are handing over? Shameful.”

A spokesman for the council says the exact sum paid to agents cannot be released because it is commercially sensitive.

A council spokesman says: “Housing Gateway seeks to acquire two, three and four-bedroom family homes to reduce temporary accommodation costs for families, whereas the vast majority of first-time buyers in Enfield purchase one-bedroom properties. ... Enfield council is actively increasing the amount of affordable housing in the borough through both large and small housing developments across Enfield which will make it immeasurably easier for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder.”

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