A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Citylets's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Citylets is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Founder and Managing Director
Thomas Ashdown
The PRS now represents 15
per cent of the total Scottish
housing stock
Citylets is Scotland’s leading certified portal for property
to rent, with up to four million site visitors annually.
They are one of the oldest online brands in the UK and
have pioneered much of what is now standard in their sector.
Information services is a core function and their research tool,
Optilet Pro, provides assessments and data on the performance
of the private rented sector, which are used by local councils
and property developers. Founder and Managing Director
Thomas Ashdown discusses the growth of the PRS and the need
to match housing supply to demand.
Established in 1999, we are the original Scottish lettings portal advertising over
50,000 properties per year from over 400 agent offices. We have traded through
a unique period of history, encompassing not only a technological revolution but
also the prominent rise of the PRS itself. Scotland, unlike England and Wales,
has numerous property portals providing those rarest of things: consumer choice
and competition online where a tendency towards a monopoly or duopoly is
When we began, the PRS represented five per cent of the total housing stock in
Scotland. It now represents 15 per cent, rising to as high as 26 per cent in major
cities such as Edinburgh. Unsurprisingly, the sector is receiving unprecedented
amounts of political attention from both north and south of the border as the
UK gets to grips with the role of private renting in society and the need to cater
responsibly to “Generation Rent”.
»Founder and Managing
Director: Thomas Ashdown
»Established in 1999
»Based in Edinburgh
»Services: PRS data and
property advertising
»No. of employees: 10
»Up to 4 million site visitors per
The balancing of rights between
tenants and landlords is a complex and
delicate matter, but it is essential in
21st-century Britain to house everyone
safely while we continue to grapple
with the root causes of the low
housing supply. It is generally agreed
that successive governments since the
end of the Second World War have
failed to implement a programme for
housebuilding that matches demand
with supply, the results of which are
now playing out in the PRS.
Advertising and data services
We are very proud to have grown
organically and continue to trade
profitably. We provide a technology
product that compares favourably
to those offered by the two large
property sites that dominate the
sector nationally. We are widely
acknowledged as a UK portal pioneer,
credited with the introduction of many
features and services that are now UK
industry standard.
Our core function has been the
provision of advertising and data
services to our clients: the letting
agents of Scotland. We help them
to find quality tenants and appraise
the market value of rental properties.
Technology has been evolving since
the beginning of the web and our
dedicated tech team, who have
remained with us since our inception,
have migrated the platform with
the times: from a simple desktop
website through to tablet and mobile
iterations and, of course, Apple and
Information services are one of our
core functions, and our quarterly
market reports, now in their 12th year,
are regarded as the most authoritative
and reliable barometer of the Scottish
rental market. Our research tool,
Optilet Pro, informs local councils,
property advisory businesses and
property developers with investment-
grade detail on the Scottish PRS.
Assisting increased supply
The appetite for good rental data,
upon which organisations within the
private and public sectors can rely,
has increased significantly in the last
few years. Local councils, such as Scotland’s first Build
to Rent development,
Forbes Place in Aberdeen
Our quarterly
market reports,
now in their
12th year, are
regarded as the
most reliable
barometer of
the Scottish
rental market
Highlighting best practice
those of Edinburgh and Glasgow, are
increasingly scrutinising the behaviour
of the rental market as part of their
housing strategies. We are delighted
to be contributing to these strategies
through the provision of data.
Councils’ activities in the PRS can
be varied. Some may be building
housing directly for full PRS or, more
commonly, for mid-market rent which
has emerged as an area of significant
growth. As the name suggests, the
tenure is designed to house working
people who cannot afford to either
buy their own home or rent in the
PRS. Councils supply grants and other
funding assistance to scale providers
of MMR, usually housing associations,
for which they need to assess the
viability of the submitted plans. An
understanding of the full market rates
in any local area allows the competent
assessment of MMR developments.
Build to rent is a nascent industry in
the UK. It is claimed that there are
already in excess of 100,000 rental
properties either delivered or under
delivery through this channel. This
provides much-needed rental stock
to the sector and represents the
beginning of a corporatised PRS in
the UK. This will mean that tenants
can enjoy the benefits of purpose-
built rental properties managed by
large-scale landlords, where security
of tenure is guaranteed, regardless
of the changing legislative and tax
landscape. This is challenging for the
majority of current providers, who are
private individuals with 1-2 properties.
We provide data either directly to
the BTR providers or to the firms that
advise them. To provide perspective,
the single BTR operator Greystar has
as many units under management
globally as the entire Scottish PRS.
A flexible working environment
Based in the West End of Edinburgh,
we provide flexible working which
paid dividends long before it became
a social norm. Almost all of our
employees have children and we
believe that there is simply no other
way to provide a healthy work–life
balance, which ultimately benefits
We also have a lot of fun – essential
when competing against much larger
businesses with market capitalisations
of between two and four billion
pounds. At the end of every year we
invite our clients to a party at the local
comedy club, headlined by household
names. Local Glaswegian Kevin Bridges
performed at one of our first events. It
is fair to say that the free bar for clients
may also hold a certaindraw.
We have been lucky enough to enjoy
the feel of a family company culture,
which almost always dissipates at
larger firms. We support numerous
initiatives in the local community and
are the current sponsor of Scottish
schools cricket and the national senior
competition, the Citylets Scottish Cup.
Our ties with Scottish cricket go back
to 2005, when the national home
ground was the Citylets Grange and
hosted the full suite of top-tier teams
in world cricket.
We are one of the oldest online brands
in the UK. Our first 20 years have been
a fascinating and odds-defying journey.
We look forward with optimism to our
next stage.
We also have a
lot of fun –
essential when
against much
with market
of between
two and four
billion pounds
Comedian Tom Stade
performing at our 2018
Christmas party

This article was sponsored by Citylets. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister