Mark Prisk tells council its housing of homeless in B&Bs is "unacceptable"
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
The housing minister, Mark Prisk, has told Westminster City Council that its ongoing practice of placing homeless families in bed & breakfast accommodation for over six weeks is "unlawful and unacceptable".
In a letter to Westminster North MP, Karen Buck, Mr Prisk wrote: "The detrimental affects (sic) of B&B accommodation on families are well documented and we must avoid a return to the situation where thousands of homeless families were living in poor B&B accommodation long term.
"This Government...has given significant additional resources to Westminster City Council to help them support families in making a transition to accommodation they can afford."
Labour Group Leader, Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, has claimed that 140 homeless Westminster families currently in B&Bs have been so for over six weeks, up from 36 in April.
Mr Prisk's letter follows a similar one sent in April by the previous housing minister, Grant Shapps, to the council's leader, Philippa Roe, which also warned the council not to keep homeless families in B&B accommodation over the legal time limit.
Mr Shapps wrote: "The Homelessness Order 2003 which came into force on 1 April 2004 means that local authorities cannot legally discharge their homelessness duty to secure accommodation by placing families with children in B&B unless nothing else is available, and even then for no longer than six weeks."
Cllr Dimoldenberg has now written to the council's chief executive, Mike More, saying: "As you know, there are now 140 families in B&B for more than 6 weeks. You will recall that in April 2012, when there were 36 families in B&B for more than 6 weeks, Mr Shapps wrote to Councillor Roe to inform her that he had 'instructed my officials and local homelessness practitioner advisers…to offer their help and support in reducing levels of B&B use'. It is obvious that whatever help and support offered by Mr Shapps has had the reverse effect."
Cllr Jonathan Glanz, the council’s cabinet member for housing and property, said: “Westminster was one of a number of local authorities that had a constructive discussion with the Minister for Housing earlier this week on the issue of bed and breakfast accommodation.
“Just like other local authorities across London, we are also facing severe housing pressures as a result of recent benefit changes, compounded by the levels of affordable housing available across the capital.
“We are working hard to provide more temporary accommodation in the short-term, but we are also looking to the long-term in providing over 1,000 new affordable homes through our housing renewal programme.”