Shapps called in as Westminster 'breaking the law' on B&B stays for homeless
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
Shapps called in as Westminster's six-week B&B stays for homeless soars
Labour councillors want the housing minister to "take action" after it was revealed that Westminster City Council has housed 100 families with children in B&B accommodation for more than six weeks.
This, despite legislation stating that housing authorities may put families up in B&Bs - where no other accommodation is available - for no more than six weeks in result of a single homelessness application.
The housing minister Grant Shapps has expressed concerns over the increased use of B&B accommodation by local authorities and in April wrote to 20 local authorities – including Westminster - who between them account for almost 80% of families in B&Bs for more than six weeks, reiterating the Government's position that the practice is “unacceptable”.
He urged them to prioritise elimination of the use of long term bed and breakfast accommodation for families, and offered support from his department to do so.
Labour councillors say that contrary to Mr Shapps’ instruction to the council to ‘resolve’ the problem, the situation has got worse with nearly three times more families in B&Bs for more than six weeks than there were in April, just a few months ago.
They claim some of the accommodation is substandard and the cost is huge with one family being housed in the Holiday Inn Brent Cross for 16 weeks and another housed in two hotels at a cost of £14,500 for just two months.
As such, they have asked the council for the current B&B costs compared to a year ago.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour Group, said: “Westminster Council is breaking the law by continuing to house families with children in B&B accommodation for more than 6 weeks. The situation is getting worse, rather than better, with almost three times as many families in B&B than there were in April when Mr Shapps ‘read the riot act’ to the Leader of Westminster Council. This problem is a financial and social disaster and is entirely the making of Mr Shapps and Westminster Conservatives who are responsible for the damaging cuts to the London Housing Allowance levels which has caused this housing crisis. It is now time for Mr Shapps to take action to ensure that Westminster Council houses families with children in proper accommodation.”
Cllr Jonathan Glanz, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for housing and property, said reducing the use of bed and breakfast accommodation is a priority for the council.
He said: "However, the current demand for housing is outstripping the available supply and our ability to lease larger self-contained accommodation within the current temporary accommodation funding regime is limited and this is leading to increased use of bed and breakfast accommodation.
“We have ambitious plans in place to increase in and close-to borough supply, but we need to work with central Government to find a way forward on longer-term temporary accommodation funding, and to establish some updated guidance to allow us to effectively plan our commissioning strategies.
“We are committed to increasing levels of affordable housing in the borough and supporting our residents into work.”