OAP saved from home axe

ELDERLY residents in a sheltered housing scheme have been saved at the 11th hour from moving to make room for homeless families.Waveney District Council officials had recommended that councillors pass a plan to encourage the 23 elderly residents at Avenue Mansions in Lowestoft to leave – making way for some of the 25 homeless families living in bed and breakfast accommodation in the district.

ELDERLY residents in a sheltered housing scheme have been saved at the 11th hour from moving to make room for homeless families.

Waveney District Council officials had recommended that councillors pass a plan to encourage the 23 elderly residents at Avenue Mansions in Lowestoft to leave – making way for some of the 25 homeless families living in bed and breakfast accommodation in the district.

The elderly residents would have received up to £1,000 in compensation if they had agreed to move out.

However, at an astonishing council meeting last night, leaders of the main political parties took half-an-hour to thrash out a new proposal after the Conservative-led proposal received a drubbing from opposition members.

Finally it was agreed that no sheltered housing schemes should be used to house the homeless unless agreed by the full council and that the Chief Executive, Mairi McLean, is given delegated powers to manage the homeless problem in the area in the short term to meet government targets.

Councillors also agreed to look into using the Wolsey and Constable residential areas in Beccles as a solution to the homeless issue.

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Jenny Watson, whose 92-year-old mother is living in Avenue Mansions, in Royal Avenue, said she was delighted with the decision.

"I'm very pleased to see that Waveney District Council has displayed a sense of fairness and I think it's extremely sad to put residents of Avenue Mansions through the stress which was unnecessary."

Conservative councillor Stephen Chilvers, portfolio member for housing, had first surprised the council by withdrawing the recommendation to use Avenue Mansions for homeless families.

Instead he asked that the Chief Executive be given powers to solve the problem to meet government targets, which state that all district councils must stop using bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families by April, or face legal battles.

However, opposition councillors strongly criticised this and said it did not safeguard the future of Avenue Mansions or any other sheltered housing scheme in Waveney.

Arguments rang out between parties over past and present housing strategies and more than once did the chairman bring the council to order.

Parties were given 20-minute adjournment before their leaders talked through a new proposal in private for a further 30 minutes.

Leader of the Independents, Cllr Irene Turrell, whose ward contains Avenue Mansions, said: "It's been a daunting evening and may have seemed like it is senior citizens versus the homeless, which was not anyone's intention."

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