Milton Keynes landlord was paid over £650,000 in housing benefits

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Greater transparency over how public money is spent has been called for after it was revealed a city landlord was paid over £650,000 in housing benefits last year.

Trade union GMB is seeking a ruling from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) that local councils must reveal the names of the top 20 sole trader landlords who between them were directly paid over £14m in housing benefits in 2012-13.

The unnamed Milton Keynes landlord comes eighth in the list.

Andrew Pakes, Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South, said: “It is clear that large amounts of public money are being paid to private landlords through tenants due to the shortage of affordable social housing.

“It is important that there is transparency over how public money is spent, especially for such large sums as this.

“Even in a relatively prosperous city like Milton Keynes many families rely on housing benefit to make ends meet.

“With prices rising faster than wages we need to ensure that the government and council are doing more to boost the level of affordable housing to rent and buy in the borough.”

GMB asked all 380 councils in Great Britain for information on the top 20 landlords getting housing benefit direct from each council.

When councils replied, the names of the recipients of over £138.5m paid from public money were redacted. GMB wants the ICO to rule that there is legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the information and that disclosure is fair. Taxpayer’s cash pays the rent to private landlords for 1.65 million privately owned dwellings in Great Britain. That is 39 per cent of all privately owned rented dwellings.

The ICO acknowledges information about people acting only in a business capacity should be treated differently to information about their private lives. This is because running a business is, in the main, a public activity and business people cannot expect the same degree of privacy in relation to their business activities as they can in their private lives.