More than £800,000 of government money that was intended to help families facing eviction because of benefit caps was unused by Westminster Council in the last financial year.
The council was given £3.7 million to stop people becoming homeless when they can no longer afford to pay their rent. But despite an 86 per cent increase in homelessness among Westminster families, the council did not spend £826,552 of the fund – more than any other local authority.
The money, known as DHP, discretionary housing payment, will now be returned to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Families in crisis who find they can no longer afford to pay rent can apply for the discretionary housing payment and the council then decides if they qualify.
The council consistently turns down applications and a panel of councillors meets each month to discuss cases where people have been declined the payment.
Labour councillor David Boothroyd said:
“It’s a very Victorian, deserving poor, type approach that they take. They will judge people’s lifestyle and reward or refuse discretionary housing payment based on it. There will have been people who have been evicted in the past year when there was the money that the council could have spent, at no cost to itself, to save them from getting evicted.”