THE Government has backed North Durham MP Kevan Jones's fight against the rogue private landlords he says are ruining former pit villages.

The Home Office has issued a White Paper to tackle anti-social behaviour and tighten landlord regulations. Mr Jones has been campaigning for more controls on private landlords who, he says, are contributing to social problems in North-East communities.

He commissioned a report last year into the problems faced in Derwentside by the former mining villages of Craghead and Grange Villa, near Stanley. He also met South Moor residents who said their lives were blighted by landlords allowing properties fall into disrepair.

"Landlords have failed to adequately maintain the properties, many have been boarded up or left in a poor condition," he said. "This, along with increased crime, drug-dealing and threatening behaviour, has increasingly stigmatised those neighbourhoods. Falling house prices have attracted private landlords whose tenants are largely dependent on housing benefit. Many of these tenants stay for only short periods of time, some problematic tenants have caused significant property damage and increased criminal and anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhood."

The new Home Office proposals will give local authorities the power to license landlords, who will have to meet strict standards to get housing benefit payments. Derwentside Private Landlords' Association chairman Trevor Dixon said his members were already doing their utmost to keep properties in good condition.

"Our landlords have to abide by our code of conduct and new members must meet a strict set of criteria before they can join the association."

The mining villages report, carried out by Northumbria University, is available from Mr Jones' constituency office on (0191) 371 8834 or seen on