Getting on your lobby horse…

The General Election is only weeks away and as politicians scramble for policies and ideas, we (the NLA) seem to be getting asked if and how we are actually influencing any of it.

It’s a fair question, especially as the last two months has seen a series of fairly draconian proposals stream out of Whitehall.

So, what exactly does the NLA do to influence decision makers? This isn’t intended to be any sort of PR spin, so please feel free to help move the conversation on.

Since its early days, the NLA’s approach has been to seek to influence public policy in the private-rented sector, constructively.

Typically people like to call this ‘lobbying’. Now that has all sorts of negative connotations. I always think of US politicians being bought off by tobacco companies or arms manufacturers.

So what we do is less ‘lobbying’ and more like ‘advocacy’. Why? Well because we believe that landlords have a positive case that can be put forward.

But we are not the only voice out there.

There are hundreds of organisations involved in housing, all with their own ‘wish list’ for changes. And every MP and local authority in the country has their own view on the rental sector, usually formed by sack loads of correspondence.

That means that different methods can be employed at different times for different results and for different audiences. It is never the case of simply shouting the loudest or taking the right MP to lunch.

But there are three things that are always needed:

  1. Facts: we need evidence, data. We’ve worked hard to ensure that our research among landlords is the best it can be. That is allowing us to ensure that at the heart of all our work is a solid evidence base.
  2. Ideas: any organisation that puts its fingers in its ears and shouts ‘la la la’ when faced with something it doesn’t want to hear doesn’t get far. Blocking everything is similarly a road to nowhere as policy makers are more receptive to good ideas rather than intransient opposition.
  3. Timing: too easily organisations feel they have to do everything, cover every issue and push against every door. However, picking your fights and not using a splatter gun approach is crucial to ensure credibility. Having a clear and long-term vision for the changes we want to see is crucial.

Your turn. Where is the NLA getting this right and where do we need to improve?

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