Local authorities blame benefit cuts as use of bed and breakfast accommodation surges
Shapps issues B&B warning to councils
The housing minister has warned 20 councils to improve the way they deal with homeless people.
Grant Shapps wrote to the local authorities in England on 23 April after becoming worried about the amount of time they were leaving families languishing in bed and breakfast accommodation. The minister is concerned councils are breaching rules barring them from placing families in B&Bs for more than six weeks.
Hammersmith & Fulham, Bromley, Westminster, Brent and Wandsworth councils in London, as well as Cornwall Council are among those singled out.
Mr Shapps wrote: ‘While this government has removed targets… this does not mean I am relaxed about local authorities placing families in B&B for extended periods.’
He urged councils to ‘prioritise this issue’ and offered the help of his officials to reduce B&B use. ‘I am writing to you privately about this at this time, but we will be monitoring the statistics closely,’ he warned.
Nigel Minto, head of housing at London Councils, said the government’s welfare reforms, including caps to local housing allowance, have led to a reduction in affordable available private rented stock.
Communities and Local Government department figures released in March show a 37 per cent increase in B&B placements from 2,310 households in the last quarter of 2010 to 3,170 in the same period last year.
A spokesperson for Bromley Council said the authority is experiencing a significant increase in households placed in temporary accommodation.
‘This is due to a number of factors, including a very competitive private rented sector furthering the gap between housing benefit levels and market rents, fewer households able to become owner-occupiers and the impact on households of the present economic situation,’ she said.
Under the Labour government’s Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 2003, councils must not place families in B&Bs for more than six weeks and must only place families with children in B&Bs when there is no alternative.
Mr Shapps told Inside Housing that breaching the six-week barrier is ‘clearly against rules and regulations that have been in force for nearly a
decade’. Councils that fail to follow the 2003 order can be subjected to a judicial review.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said: ‘This is yet another indication of our fraying housing safety net, which is struggling to catch all those who are now in need of it.’
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