Westminster City Council has been told by Housing Minister Mark Prisk MP that its continued placing of families in Bed & Breakfast for more than six weeks is “unlawful and unacceptable”. The letter from Housing Minister Mark Prisk MP to Karen Buck on 29th November follows a letter in April 2012 from former Housing Minister Grant Shapps MP to Council Leader Philippa Roe making a similar point.
Now Labour Group Leader Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg has written to Council Chief Executive Mike More;
“As you know, there are now 140 families in B&B for more than 6 weeks. You will recall that in April 2012, when there were 36 families in B&B for more than 6 weeks, Mr Shapps wrote to Councillor Roe to inform her that he had ”instructed my officials and local homelessness practitioner advisers…to offer their help and support in reducing levels of B&B use”. It is obvious that whatever help and support offered by Mr Shapps has had the reverse effect.
You will be aware that I have raised this matter at every Council meeting and every Housing Scrutiny Committee since April. I am writing again to register my extreme concern at the Council’s continued unlawful activity and to ask;
- Whether it is the Cabinet Member for Housing, the Cabinet or Councillors collectively who are responsible for this unlawful action?
- Whether Council officers have any responsibility for this unlawful action, and if so, whom?
- Given what the Minister says, whether a family who has been placed in B&B accommodation for more than 6 weeks would have a case against the Council for unlawfully housing them in this way?
- If the Council were to lose a legal case brought by such a family, what the cost to the Council might be in settling with the 140 families currently in B&B accommodation for more than 6 weeks and the other families who have in the past been housed in this unlawful manner?
I would be grateful if you could give this your most urgent attention.”