Council backs paying residents to leave

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to move elderly residents from a sheltered housing scheme to make room for the homeless has been recommended to local councillors.

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to move elderly residents from a sheltered housing scheme to make room for the homeless has been recommended to local councillors.

Waveney District Council announced in October that it wanted to encourage 23 elderly residents to move out of their homes at Avenue Mansions in Lowestoft so homeless families currently living in bed and breakfast accommodation could move in.

The proposals, previously recommended by the council's Conservative-controlled executive, have caused anger amongst the scheme's residents and opposition parties.

Under the proposal, residents will be offered up to and over £1,000 in compensation and expenses in an alternative sheltered housing scheme but if tenants reject this, families would still be moved in.

The council's Policy Development and Review Committee decided in December that the proposal should be scrapped until other options were found, but councillors have now been asked to adopt the plan when they meet on January 22.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, was disappointed on behalf of the Avenue Mansions residents.

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“We have had lots of calls from several tenants who were worried about things like moving, the splitting of their strong community and about not being happy living elsewhere. We also had a lot of calls from other elderly people in Waveney who wondered if this could happen to them.”

David Jermy, leader of the Labour group at the council, said: “We are totally opposed to bribing vulnerable elderly people into leaving their secure accommodation. There are large numbers of empty properties in Lowestoft and the surrounding area which could quite easily be used to accommodate homeless families. We are very disappointed that the Conservative administration has failed to appreciate the trauma that their proposals are causing elderly people who should not be having to worry about whether they will be pressurised into leaving their homes.”

Peter Austin, leader of the council, came down on the side of the families. He said: “These are not difficult families or problem families, these are people made homeless by private landlords who have sold properties. They are ordinary families who need somewhere better than bed and breakfast accommodation. We are looking to use Avenue Mansions until better accommodation can be found for them but it's hard to get hold of.”

The proposals were prompted by the Government requiring local councils to stop accommodating homeless families in bed and breakfast accommodation by April, or face legal action.

Twenty-nine homeless families are currently waiting to be housed in Waveney and the council admits the 26 flats at Avenue Mansions would not solve the problem.

The move would also save the cash-strapped council £6,500 a week, which in the past has sent its homeless to accommodation in the Great Yarmouth area.

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