Hous­ing cri­sis after gov­ern­ment pol­icy changes lead to coun­cil over­spend

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By Joel Lamy joel.lamy@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @PTJoelLamy

An “un­prece­dented spike” in home­less­ness has seen fam­i­lies moved into the Trav­elodge at a seven-fig­ure cost to Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil. The coun­cil has pre­dicted it will over­spend by £1.8 mil­lion this fi­nan­cial year, with £1.2 mil­lion of that dueto sup­port­ing peo­ple in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The Gov­ern­ment roll-out of Univer­sal Credit (merg­ing ben­e­fits into one pay­ment) and higher tax­a­tion on land­lords is be­ing blamed by coun­cil of­fi­cers for the rise in home­less­ness.

Univer­sal Credit, which be­gan be­ing rolled out in the city last De­cem­ber, sees hous­ing ben­e­fit given to ten­ants rather than di­rectly to land­lords.

Adrian Chap­man, coun­cil ser­vice direc­tor for adult ser­vices and com­mu­ni­ties, said a num­ber of land­lords were no longer tak­ing on ten­ants on hous­ing ben­e­fit be­cause they were “ner­vous” they would not get the rent. He added: “The tax bur­den is far greater now and we are see­ing a lot of land­lords just choos­ing to sell up .”

The coun­cil has run out of hos­tel beds and B&B rooms to house peo­ple. How­ever, the num­ber of peo­ple pre­sent­ing them­selves as home­less has risen from an av­er­age of 60 to 90 in 2012 to 150 last month. Mr Chap­man called it an “un­prece­dented spike.”

This means the coun­cil is hav­ing to home peo­ple in the city’s three Trav­elodges at a cost of £294 to £588 per week. The av­er­age num­ber of fam­i­lies stay­ing at the ho­tel is 28, but­this has been as high as 40. The av­er­age stay is 20 days.

To al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem, the coun­cil will soon sign a deal with es­tate agents Stef and Philips Ltd which has bought 74 prop­er­ties from a pri­vate provider at St Michael’ s Gate off Keys Park, Parn­well.

The ten­ants at the homes have stayed be­yond their fixed terms and will be evicted, with a deal struck for the coun­cil to use the prop­er­ties for overnight stays.

Steven Pilsworth, ser­vice direc­tor for fi­nan­cial ser­vices, said he was “rea­son­ably con­fi­dent” the coun­cil would make a bal­anced bud­get through greater than pre­vi­ously ex­pected sav­ings in con­ces­sion­ary bus fares and cheaper bor­row­ing costs due to B rex it.

Asked about the rise in home­less­ness, Cllr I rene Walsh, Con­ser­va­tive cabi­net mem­ber for com­mu­ni­ties and en­vi­ron­ment cap­i­tal, said: “I’m very con­cerned we may not see an im­prove­ment in the near fu­ture.” But she added: “The Gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion is to re­duce de­pen­dency on wel­fare and this will even­tu­ally suc­ceed. Maybe not in the short-term, but over a num­ber of years the sit­u­a­tion will im­prove.”

Thecity’s Tory MP Ste­wart Jack­son said Univer­sal Credit will help get claimants into good qual­ity work and that it would have teething prob­lems. He added: “The city coun­cil needs to work harder to de­liver more af­ford­able homes for work­ing peo­ple.”

Ex­te­rior of the Trav­elodge on New Road and below, Coun Irene Walsh

‘I’m very con­cerned we may not see an im­prove­ment in the fu­ture.The near Governm in­ten­tion is to re­duce de­pen­dency on wel­fare and this will even­tu­ally suc­ceed.’ Cllr Irene Walsh

The Trav­elodge in New Road

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