Rip-off fury as coun­cil bill to house home­less surges to £1bn a year

Daily Express - - News - By Ryan Wilkin­son

PUB­LIC spend­ing on tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion in Eng­land has surged by more than 70 per cent in the past five years to nearly £1bil­lion, fig­ures sug­gest.

The £413mil­lion rise, de­scribed by one coun­cil leader as a “rip-off”, stems from a grow­ing home­less pop­u­la­tion and pri­vate providers rais­ing their charges.

The Min­istry of Hous­ing, Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Govern­ment fig­ures show English coun­cils spent £997mil­lion on tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion in 2017/18.

Five years ear­lier, they spent £584mil­lion – 71 per cent less. And in the past five years, there has been a 47 per cent rise in the num­ber of English house­holds in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion. Com­par­ing the data with pop­u­la­tion per coun­cil, anal­y­sis sug­gests some coun­cils are spend­ing up to £200 per head of their pop­u­la­tion on shel­ter­ing home­less house- holds. The na­tional av­er­age was £18 per head.

All 32 Lon­don bor­oughs were in the top-spend­ing 45 au­thor­i­ties. Hack­ney was highest, at £208 per head.

Out­side Lon­don, Lu­ton came 17th at £77 per head and Manch­ester was the highest area beyond the South-east, spend­ing £30.

Darren Rod­well, Lon­don Coun­cils hous­ing and plan­ning ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber and leader of Bark­ing and Da­gen­ham coun­cil in east Lon­don, said: “These fig­ures show how lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and tax­pay­ers are be­ing ripped off by fail­ings in the na­tional ap­proach to this is­sue.

“It’s clear we can’t keep re­ly­ing on in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive pri­vate sec­tor ac­com­mo­da­tion, so more must be done to boost pro­vi­sion of so­cial hous­ing.” Shel­ter cam­paign di­rec­tor Greg Beales said the £1bil­lion bill “is get­ting even higher as land­lords charge des­per­ate coun­cils over the odds for some of the least suitable and worst places for home­less fam­i­lies to live”.

Heather Wheeler, the min­is­ter for hous­ing and home­less­ness, said tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion was an “im­por­tant safety net”, which en­sured the most vul­ner­a­ble had a roof over their heads un­til longer-term hous­ing could be found.

She said: “We’re pro­vid­ing more than £1.2bil­lion to tackle all forms of home­less­ness.

“This in­cludes fund­ing for pro­grammes which will sup­port more home­less fam­i­lies into long-term pri­vate rented ac­com­mo­da­tion.”

Heather Wheeler... ‘safety net’

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