Opinion: Using technology to tackle everyday issues we face

Cllr Danny Beales says digital mapping software can help authorities identify rogue landlords.

Cllr Danny Beales says digital mapping software can help authorities identify rogue landlords. - Credit: Archant

Fast-paced digital change is increasingly setting the pattern of our lives.

The rollout of 5G and the telecommunications partner the government chooses to deliver this reminds us that while we must seek to maximise the undoubted opportunities technology brings, we must also put security concerns and effective regulation at the heart of technological change. The same is true locally too.

We want an inclusive, digital Camden - where no-one is left behind and where technology is used as a force for good to find solutions to issues we face.

To help with this we are working with representatives from organisations including The Guardian, Government Digital Service and the City of Paris, who will review how we can further use digital to tackle challenges like reducing homelessness and supporting those furthest from the labour market into work.

In my role, I see at first hand the opportunities for entrepreneurism and business growth in Camden's Knowledge Quarter that are provided through improved digital infrastructure, promotion of open data and app development. But I also see how technological and economic changes can pose real local challenges that the council must respond to. This can be a major challenge to existing planning enforcement powers and our increasingly limited resources.

Companies like Airbnb and Deliveroo, and other providers, have transformed how we holiday and how we eat. Purchases in a few clicks. Convenience rules. But often their operations can have significant local consequences.

Our campaigning to ensure regulation of short-term letting goes back several years. Due to the rapid increase of what become near permanent short-term lets, whole areas of Camden can become unavailable to families and permanent residents, fuelling the ongoing London housing crisis.

Most Read

Lobbying from us and other councils led to commitments from some to cap the stay on their sites to 90 nights per year, but users simply switch sites to another provider and rent for longer. The legislation has proved difficult and costly for councils to enforce. We as communities have not been given the resources or powers to act.

Our work continues though. We are piloting digital mapping software that compiles and maps short term let data to show where properties that break the law are located. So we are using new technology to address a problem created by technology!

We're also keeping up the political pressure. We recently co-signed a letter with the Mayor of London urging the government to introduce a mandatory registration system for anyone wishing to rent out a property as a short-term let.

The downside to Deliveroo is obvious to those living near sites where mopeds gather, or alongside the industrial scale kitchens springing up, like those in Swiss Cottage. We have taken enforcement action in these cases, but are having to prepare for an official appeal inquiry on the matter, where we will represent these concerns and seek a way forward which greatly reduces the current impacts.

Whether you're a net native or a digital novice, you as a resident can play an important role by continuing to report issues.

We will continue to adapt our services, stretch our resources further and lobby for the powers and funding needed to keep up with the challenges technology poses.