£1m ho­tel bill spArks row

MP and city coun­cil leader ar­gue over home­less­ness rise

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

Pe­ter­bor­ough MP Ste­wart Jack­son is in a dis­pute with the leader of Pe­ter­bor­ough City Coun­cil over the author­ity’s £1 mil­lion ho­tel bill for home­less fam­i­lies. Coun­cil­lor John Holdich has sided with coun­cil of­fi­cers in blam­ing the Gov­ern­ment for the large rise in peo­ple need­ing tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion in one of the city’s three Trav­elodges.

Cllr Holdich said: “One of these days our MP will ac­cept some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ac­tions of his gov­ern­ment which led to un­in­tended con­se­quences.”

How­ever, Mr Jack­son has fired back on Twit­ter, ac­cus­ing his fel­low Con­ser­va­tive of mis­lead­ing the me­di­ato “hide his own sham­bolic record,” and­de­scrib­ing hi­masa“pretty use­less” leader.

He added: “I’m not sure I’m that keen to take lec­tures from the guy who’s presided over the worst pri­ma­ryschool re­sults in Eng­land.”

The Pe­ter­bor­ough Tele­graph re­vealed last week that the coun­cil was ex­pect­ing to over­spend by £1.2 mil­lion in 2016/17 be­cause it hadrunout of hos­tels and B&Bs to put up home­less fam­i­lies, forc­ing it to use one of three city Trav­elodges at a greater cost.

The­coun­cil blamedalarge rise in home­less­ness caused by the Gov­ern­ment pol­icy of Uni­ver­sal Credit - which sees hous­ing ben­e­fit paid to ten­ants in­stead of to land­lords - and­tax­changes­for­land­lords.

Cllr Holdichadded:“My­of­fi­cers in my view are 100 per cent right on this. And be­cause of the un­in­tended con­se­quences of the bed­room­tax or spare room tax, we have 1,600 peo­ple on a wait­ing list for two bed­room prop­er­ties.

“We­can’tput­theminthree bed­room prop­er­ties be­cause they can’t af­ford to pay the ad- di­tional ben­e­fit for the spare room.”

The Gov­ern­ment said it is in­vest­ing over £500 mil­lion to tackle home­less­ness and that it was “mis­lead­ing” to blame its re­forms. North West Cam­bridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara said Uni­ver­sal Credit would help peo­ple get back into work.

How­ever, Pe­ter­bor­ough land­lord Azar Hus­sain said: “I my­self, a pri­vate land­lord who has pre­vi­ously taken on ten­ants on hous­ing ben­e­fit, can­not see my­self do­ing this in the fu­ture. There are many land­lords nowwhoare­choos­ing to sell up as a re­sult of new tax reg­u­la­tions.”

A sec­ond city land­lord, James Fraser, said: “This is be­ing forced on us by a gov­ern­men­twhich­haspro­duced bad tax pol­icy and now does not wish to take any re­spon­si­bil­ity for it.”

Mr Fraser said the MPs were at best “wil­fully ig­no­rant” of what ef­fects the Govern­men­tre­form­swere­hav­ing.

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