West Suffolk: More than £200,000 spent on B&B for homeless

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is consulting on Vision 2031

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is consulting on Vision 2031 - Credit: Archant

More than £200,000 was spent placing homeless families into B&Bs in parts of west Suffolk last year, new figures have revealed.

The council-borne costs were made public after a councillor voiced concerns that the introduction of the bedroom tax would cause more people to be pushed into expensive emergency accommodation.

According to information released by Anne Gower, housing portfolio holder for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the total cost of placing cases into B&B in 2012/2013 was £217,0887, although £70,000 was recouped from Housing Benefit.

At the time the data was compiled in June, the authority had 17 households in B&B at a cost of £825 per night, £552.75 of which could not be recouped.

Last year a report designed to highlight housing issues in St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath said an increase in demand for affordable homes, coupled with a slowed down delivery rate had helped create a “very challenging” situation in the region.

In addition, the lack of available one bedroom properties has led to problems finding homes for the growing number of single people who now account for more than 50% of those on the housing register.

Julia Wakelam, Green councillor for Risbygate, requested the information on homelessness and numbers of those affected by bedroom tax after it was not included in a report on housing to full council last month.

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Yesterday she described the situation as “ludicrous” and said the disclosure that 588 households had suffered a benefits cut due to occupancy restriction meant it was “inevitable” that more people would be forced into emergency accommodation.

She added: “We’re not as badly off as some parts of the country because people are struggling to carry on paying rather than losing their homes. But I think as time goes on they will give up the struggle and - because they won’t be regarded as intentionally homeless - they are likely end up in a B&B.”

Ms Wakelam said: “What else can the council do? They haven’t got the property for all of them.”

Cllr Anne Gower, St Edmundsbury Cabinet member for Housing said: “The cost of temporary accommodation is only one part of the catastrophe of becoming homeless. We deal with each case individually and our focus is on prevention. Without the work we do to support tenancies and signpost to other options, the picture would be even blacker.”