The HMO Consultation – could the result be manipulated?

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Worrying evidence has emerged of the possibility that the the current consultation on limiting the numbers of HMOs in St Andrews is open to abuse.

Forms have been sent to all households in St Andrews, one per household, including private and University student HMOs, but there seems to be nothing to stop a student from an HMO also voting on-line since no unique identifier is required. In fact, it emerges that anyone with internet access can vote  via the student consultation since there are no required fields – it is possible to click through to the options page, select an option and then receive a unique confirmation reference number. And there is nothing to stop repeat voting.

While every student will be able to vote (on-line and on paper), less than half the residents will have that right since there is only one vote per household and, on average, households have 2 or more adult members.

Responding to residents’ concerns, Housing Services Vania Kennedy said “The Council has invited responses to three separate surveys on HMOs in St Andrews – from residents, students and local organisations.  The residents’ survey was issued to households living in St Andrews, excluding properties owned by the University of St Andrews.”

“The students’ survey was sent via the Students’ Union to individual students.  The  organisation survey was issued to businesses, groups and other stakeholders in the town.  All three surveys involve slightly different approaches and for that reason it is not intended to combine the survey results into a single analysis – the number of student responses will not impact on numbers responding within the residents’ survey and vice-versa.  When Elected Members consider the results from the surveys they will be provided separately within the Committee report.”

Speaking on behalf of the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations, Professor Richard Olver said, “There may be no intention to analyse the consultation as a referendum but many will see it as such and if there is a substantial majority in the student survey favouring a 3% increase, there will be huge pressure from the student body, no doubt backed by the university, for it to be  accepted as policy.”

“The fact that the student vote can be manipulated and the the lack of effective checks on the student consultation scarcely generates confidence in the process overall.”

St Andrews QV (Qui Vive) is an independent not-for-profit, non-political platform for news and debates about issues that are important to the Town. It exists to hold decision makers and public services to account while its editorial policy is to accommodate all shades of opinion from all parts of the community, prioritising evidence-based arguments. St Andrews QV is a member of the Independent Community News Network and is committed to the Community Journalism Charter

1 comment

  1. Apologies for the delay in posting your comment Robin.
    You are surely right to be suspicious of the motives and actions of Housing Services. They do seem to have an agenda which includes expanding the number of HMOs in spite of the housing crisis in St Andrews. They ignored the Town Commissions’ report, took no action for several years while more housing was lost, eventually commissioned the useless North Star Report at a cost of £10,000 of council taxpayer’s money, and now may be trying to mislead residents taking part in the consultation by referring to option 2 as a ‘3% increase in HMOs’ (about 17) whereas it is 3% of households – an increase of 202 HMOs.
    QV has been assured that the consultation is being treated as 3 separate consultations and that there is no intention to pool the student and resident votes. Community and Housing Services Committee’s will make a final decision at its meeting in April and its current position is not to allow any growth in HMOs.


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