Measures taken to tackle rogue gangmasters and ensure the safety of Houses in Multiple Occupation have been discussed at a meeting.
At Boston Borough Council’s task and finish group meeting on the impact of immigration, members heard from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) about the issue.
Darryl Dixon, director of strategy at GLA, said: “Since we commenced licensing in 2006, 59 companies based in Boston have affectively ceased trading. However, 15 of these individuals or companies have since re-emerged and are now part of the 53 current licence holders. So there is an issue about whether in fact they are truly going out of business, or whether they are actually closing down to avoid regulations and re-emerging.”
In the Boston area alone, the GLA has refused 12 licences and revoked 18.
Coun Richard Austin said there was a lot of anecdotal evidence that many gangmasters had too many workers on their books then they had full-time work for, adding: “This gives a social problem because these folks are hanging out on the streets of Boston and other areas and intimidating for a lot of people. Have you any means of reducing this problem?”
Responding, Mr Dixon said: “It’s not something we have been looking at in terms of our data and our investigations. There’s nothing in our rules that specify you can’t have more people on your books that you might have work for at the moment.
“Acting as an unlicensed gangmaster is a criminal offence. In Lincolnshire there have been 67 prosecutions, 43 of which were for individuals acting as an unlicensed gangmaster.”
But he added: “We have no power over what they may be doing elsewhere in any other sector if in fact they are providing workers into cleaning, catering and care homes.”
Mr Dixon noted that there are several companies operating in Boston that are based outside of the UK. “Part of the inspection process is the interview of the workers,” he said. “It can become quite complex when you find out that the company providing the licensed workers are based abroad.”
One example he gave of licences in breach of regulations, involved companies found to be charging their employers for receiving a wage slip.
Following the meeting, Mr Dixon gave further details on data gathered in Boston. He said: “Since September 2010, there have been 201 inspections of companies based in Boston. Eleven of the applications for a licence were refused after being inspected. There were 80 compliance inspections (out of the 201 inspections), 18 of which led to revocation of licence.
“None of the revocations or refusals identified any gangmaster providing accommodation, and therefore none of those cases included failures of the GLA’s licensing standards that related to accommodation.
“Comparably, in the same period, there were six failures for provision of poor accommodation, and one for not complying with HMO or selective licence requirements.”