Furniture storage fee for homeless
HOMELESS people living in a Suffolk district will be charged for the storage of their furniture under new plans.Suffolk Coastal District Council is proposing to introduce the charges in a bid to keep down council tax rises.
HOMELESS people living in a Suffolk district will be charged for the storage of their furniture under new plans.
Suffolk Coastal District Council is proposing to introduce the charges in a bid to keep down council tax rises.
Homeless people will be charged on a sliding scale based on their ability to pay in a move that the council hopes will save about £16,000 a year.
Ray Herring, council leader, said: "We have been looking at all our budgets, making efficiency savings in different ways, reducing duplication and reducing overheads, with a view to keeping council tax as low as possible. That's the framework for this.
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"There is a whole list of potential savings and one of them is related to charging for storage of furniture when people are made homeless.
"The first thing to realise is that the majority of people made homeless are not homeless because of their ability or inability to pay rent.
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"There are a variety of reasons and their ability to pay is not always one of them. There could be marriage break-ups or it could be where people were staying with families but it is no longer possible to do so."
He added: "We have a duty to provide advice on housing for everyone and we also have a duty to provide accommodation to enable people to be housed who are unintentionally homeless.
"We also have a duty to ensure that in such circumstances that their furniture is secure.
"Like one or two other councils in Suffolk and Essex we are considering charging in such circumstances, which will be based on a sliding scale."
Anyone on housing benefits would actually pay a "minimal sum", but those who can pay will make a contribution to the storage charges.
Mr Herring said the average storage charge a week is about £35 to £40 but the minimal sum for people on benefits would be somewhere in the region of £2 to £3 per week.
Currently there are three families and ten single people in bed and breakfasts in the district.
However, Jerry Lake, area manager for the housing charity Shelter in Suffolk and Essex, said: "While Shelter believes councils should offer storage facilities to securely protect homeless families' furniture and other possessions, we believe that any charges for this service should be affordable.
"Living in temporary accommodation often leads to extra costs for homeless families already.
"Shelter believes that there should be no charges for storing the possessions of homeless people dependant on benefits such as income support or housing benefit."
The proposal was given preliminary approval at a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday and a final decision will be made as part of the budget process in February.