Mark Prisk told to 'get tough' with council over B&B families
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Housing
Housing minister Mark Prisk has been told to 'get tough' with Westminster Council as the number of homeless families placed in B&B accommodation for over six weeks is set to increase to more than 150.
Labour councillors have demanded that the minister takes action after he told Westminster North MP Karen Buck back in November that placing families with children in B&B accommodation was “unacceptable and unlawful”.
Overall, there are currently over 2,300 Westminster families in temporary accommodation.
Housing officers told councillors in a recent ‘homelessness update’ that: "Whilst there will be fluctuations in the numbers of households with children in non-self-contained bed and breakfast accommodation the trend will be for this to increase until additional supply of self-contained accommodation is available.
Obtaining this figure is complex as it has to be calculated manually on a case by case basis due to different household and property circumstances. Thus numbers were close to 150 in November, reduced to 120 before Christmas following largely the result of new TA stock being procured coming on stream and increasing use of ‘annexes’ (essentially using self-contained accommodation as an alternative to bed and breakfast.)
"However the numbers of acceptances each month means that there are families in bed and breakfast for less than 6 weeks who are crossing that threshold and this will drive further increases above 150."
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said: "It is time for Mr Prisk to get tough with Westminster Council. The situation is about to get worse and the Council continues to break the law, despite warnings from successive Housing Minister that the Council’s actions are “unacceptable and unlawful”. Keeping so many families with children in B&B for so long is an appalling state of affairs and is a measure of the severity of London’s housing crisis. The Government needs to get a grip of the situation and ensure that Westminster Council builds more homes for families in need, at a price they can afford."
Cllr Jonathan Glanz, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Property, said: “Putting families in B&B’s is a last resort for councils and it is something that we in Westminster do reluctantly, but the real issue here is the extremely high demand and lack of housing in London, which is a result of successive governments over the past 30 years simply failing to build enough homes.
“Coupled with the effects of the economic downturn and the impact of the housing benefit caps in the capital, we are now seeing unprecedented levels of people presenting themselves as homeless to local authorities.
“But in Westminster, we doing what we can to create new homes, by building over 1,000 new properties through regeneration programmes, by creating new homes through innovative in-fill developments and by making best use of small plots of council land.
“The current London housing crisis is not something Westminster or any local authority can solve in isolation - we need to work with the GLA and colleagues in other boroughs on a long-term London-wide solution.”