Labour Councillors in Westminster are celebrating their success in shaming Westminster Conservatives in to finally take action to stop their illegal practice of housing homeless families with children in Bed & Breakfast accommodation for more than six weeks.
Early this year there were over 170 families with children in B&B accommodation for more than 6 weeks and involved the Council spending over £25 million on housing homeless families in temporary accommodation, including expensive hotels, because the Council could not find anywhere to house them. The Council spent £248,000 on rooms at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Chelsea during January and February 2013 and paid £171,000 for rooms at the Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington.
Earlier this year Westminster Council’s spending on housing families in hotels in London, including the West End, was £145,000 a week, according to information supplied to Labour Councillors by Council officers. On an annual basis this worked out at a massive £7.5 million.
In November 2012 Westminster City Council was told by Housing Minister Mark Prisk MP that its continued placing of families with children in Bed & Breakfast Hotels for more than six weeks was “unlawful and unacceptable”. In April 2012, the then Housing Minister Grant Shapps MP wrote to council leader Philippa Roe and said: “I have instructed my officials to contact your authority and offer their help and support in reducing levels of B & B use.” No action was taken by the Council despite these clear Government warnings.
Now Councillors have been told;
“There are now no (zero) Families in B&B over 6 weeks (reduced from a peak of 171 several months ago) which is reflective of procuring more self-contained accommodation. In recent weeks, the supply of new self-contained properties is exceeding new demand but remains predominantly ‘nightly booked’ accommodation although more than 30 new long-term leased properties were sourced in the month. “
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, outlined Labour’s campaign to make the Council comply with the law which included;
• Questions to the Cabinet member for Housing at every Council meeting and every meeting of the Finance and Housing Scrutiny Committee asking for details of the numbers of families in B&B and the cost and what action the Council was taking to reduce the numbers
• A challenge to the Cabinet Member for Housing to resign if the number of families in B&B for more than six weeks was not reduced to zero by September
• Regular information to the local and national press so that the Council’s failure to comply with the law was made public widely and regularly
• Close cooperation with Karen Buck MP so that Westminster’s failure to act could be raised in Parliament and directly with Ministers
Councillor Dimoldenberg said;
“There are now no Westminster families who have been in B&B accommodation for more than 6 weeks and that is very good news. After a long-running campaign Labour Councillors have shamed the Conservatives in to taking action and housing families with children properly, as well as saving tax payers millions of pounds. “