Leading the way: Darren Rodwell

by Sue Hill Fri 16 March 2018, 1:55 pm

Barking and Dagenham Council's leader, Darren Rodwell, is a champion of sustainable development and regeneration which will genuinely benefit residents.

Image courtesy of Sharron Wallace, 2018

Speaking exclusively to BOLD, Rodwell reflects on the local authority's successes since he has been at the helm and the legacy he wants to leave the borough

He's the proud and passionate council leader who still lives on the same Dagenham housing estate where he was born and grew up.

And with Darren Rodwell having spent his entire life amongst the community he now serves, there is no-one better placed to present opportunities for development and regeneration that will genuinely benefit his residents.

Since his appointment as leader of Barking and Dagenham Council in 2014, there have already been many successes.

Rodwell has a cabinet of 10, which includes six women, and is a director of the local authority’s own private housing company Reside.

Aimed at residents struggling to get on the housing ladder, as well as those finding it difficult to access social housing, the company offers secure tenancies for up to five years and homes from comparative council rent to 80% market rate rent levels.

It's a programme that the council leader is proud of and one he hopes will change the way people in his London borough see renting.

He says: "What I'm saying to people is 'rent is not a dirty thing' and we should all be proud of the fact that people rent, because London was built on renters. It wasn't built on homeowners. It's only been in the last 40 years that homeownership has risen.

"What I'm trying to do is to bring back the right to rent. When I was a kid growing up on the Becontree estate, social housing meant getting on with your neighbours, it just wasn’t the derogatory term that it has now become."

Rodwell says Reside has five different levels of rent open to his residents."The first is for the most needy, the second is for people on London living wage, so if you're only earning £19,000 in a household we can rent to you," he says.

And unlike private landlords, Reside offers five-year contracts, giving tenants both security and stability. Rodwell says: "Home is always the most important part of anyone's life. So if you don’t have the stability of the home, whether that be financial or emotional, it makes it very difficult for you to achieve. I've always put a lot of emphasis on the home. And of course I know what it’s like to come from an estate having spent all my life on different parts of the Becontree.

"So what we offer at Reside is effectively a rolling tenure, and if you want to stay for your whole life then you can. We give our tenants the option to pull out on us, but as long as you’re a good tenant you can stay in that property for the rest of your life."

A longer version of this article appears in issue #10 of BOLD magazine, published March 2018

Click here to get a copy

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