Terry Wheeler has been evicted from his home of 20 years in the town —with his political party blaming current law where tenants can be served notice for no reason.
The local mental health care worker was elected on May 4 to represent Tavistock North, one of four new Green councillors joining Lynn Daniel, Green councillor for South Tawton, who was re-elected to her South Tawton seat. However, he has now decided to resign from the council after less than a fortnight, after losing his home in the town. Shortly before the election he was served a no-fault — or Section 21 eviction notice — to leave the house he rents. Unable to find affordable housing in Tavistock, Cllr Wheeler is having to move his family out of the area.
Leader of the Green Group on West Devon Borough Council, Lynn Daniel, said: ‘We are so sorry to lose Terry. He would have been an excellent councillor, especially with his experience in mental health work.
‘We are a listening party and care for the welfare of our members. Terry was put under extreme stress whilst also worrying about his responsibility to the people of Tavistock. We advised him to put his health and family first when making this difficult decision.’
She went on to point the finger at the Conservative Government’s ‘tardiness’ in bringing forward new legislation to end so-called ‘Section 21 eviction notices’ which allow landlords to evict tenants for no reason.
‘The Conservatives have been in power for 13 years and have totally neglected their duty, nationally and locally, to provide affordable, secure housing. They have failed to provide protection for tenants in privately rented accommodation. This leaves thousands of people each year to go through the situation Terry is now experiencing.
‘Moving home is one of the most stressful of life’s challenges; to be forced out against your will is shocking. Why do the Conservatives allow no-fault evictions to continue?’
No-fault evictions are not allowed in Scotland or Wales and were banned in England during Covid. They were, however, reinstated by the Conservative Government in May 2021. Opposition parties have said this has led to a huge increase in no-fault evictions. However this situation could soon be reversed, as the legislation is due to be examined in further detail in the House of Commons, where the Renters’ Reform Bill was reintroduced over the past week. In this, the Government is putting forward draft legislation to end no-fault evictions, which would give security to private renters. The bill also proposes to give greater powers to landlords to evict tenants over anti-social behaviour. The resignation of Cllr Wheeler leaves a vacancy for a borough councillor in Tavistock’s North Ward, where there are three seats the others being occupied by Independent Jeff Moody and Lib Dem Pete Squire.
The recent election for all 31 seats on West Devon Borough Council was a good one for the Greens, who won five seats on the night, up from two seats held in the previous four-year session on the council. In Chagford, Green Dr Jane Elliott took a seat from the Conservatives, with 485 votes, while incumbent Conservative Nicky Heyworth got 285 votes. In the Okehampton South ward, Malcolm Calder was elected for one of the two seats, again winning a seat from a Conservative, Cllr Julie Yelland, who remains a councillor on Okehampton Town Council. In South Tawton, Cllr Lynn Daniel was re-elected, gaining 476 votes with the only other candidate, Conservative and local pub landlord Simon Cowell gaining 222 votes. There was also a toppling of an incumbent Tory in Drewsteignton ward, where Conservative Paul Ridgers lost to Green Steven Guthrie by just 13 votes. Mr Wheeler’s resignation in Tavistock North ward leaves a vacancy in the ward of Tavistock on WDBC.
Steve Mullineaux, returning officer for West Devon Borough Council, said: ‘We can confirm that we have received notification that Terry Wheeler has resigned as a councillor for the Tavistock North ward. We are now in the process of organising a by-election so the vacancy can be filled.’