B&B bills burgeon as homelessness soars

Homelessness
Homelessness

Milton Keynes Council has forked out £1.2 million on bed and breakfast bills this year in a bid to deal with the city’s rocketing homelessness problem.

Every month 60 new families or individuals become genuinely homeless.

At the same time hundreds more people classed as urgent priority cases are stuck on the council waiting list – with little hope of getting a house.

Now, for the first time, the council has set up a Housing Allocations Review Group to discover what is going wrong and how improvements can be made.

Chairing the group will be Lib Dem councillor Chris Williams. He told the Citizen: “The problem is simple: the number of properties available does not equal the number of people needing housing.

“The only solution is for the council to build more homes itself and encourage more affordable housing to be built.”

But Citizen sources have revealed the council recently REFUSED an offer of free land for hundreds of rental houses.

It is understood council officers and councillors were contacted by a local landowner offering the use of several acres in return for some of the rental income.

“A hotel owner also offered to sign over his premises for the council to use. That too was refused,” said the source.

Councillor Williams said; “If somebody did genuinely want to help, I am disappointed this offer was not investigated further.”

During the past year homelessness has soared by 28 per cent, with 1,111 applications received. The council accepted it had a statutory duty to house 682 of these cases – more than double the numbers from three years ago.

Many of them have been placed been bed and breakfast, with 21,925 ‘bednights’ purchased from private hotel owners during 2014/2015.

There are currently more than 120 households in B&Bs as far afield as Bedford. Most have children and a significant number have lived there for more than six weeks.

Some 18 more households are replaced in hostels each month. Yet this week Labour councillors closed down one such hostel - because of complaints from neighbours. (See story on p 7).

Meanwhile the Labour administration plans to help ‘solve’ the homelessness crisis by building 100 new homes - after 2017.

Conservative spokesman Catriona Morris said: We need to tackle head on the growing homelessness in MK. We don’t need a sticking plaster we need a long term plan. We need more council houses.”

Labour housing spokesman Hannah O’Neill plans to hold a Housing Summit in MK next month to tackle the homelessness problem.

“I am determined to do something to help. It is not good enough that we have so many families in B&B. If people have ideas then we want to hear them. Together will do all we can to find a solution.”