London councils forced to review b&b placings outside the capital

2 Dec 99
A High Court victory by homeless families who objected to being placed in seaside accommodation will add to the spiralling cost of homelessness in London, local authorities warned this week.

03 December 1999

The London Borough of Newham announced on November 26 that it will appeal against the ruling, just hours after Mr Justice Dyson had declared its policy of using bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Great Yarmouth and other coastal towns was too rigid and likely to cause difficulty to families.

Newham is one of 12 London councils which regularly place families in seaside hotels and guest houses because there is insufficient emergency accommodation in their own boroughs. About 10% of Newham's 325 homeless households are based in towns along the south coast and in East Anglia.

The council, which is already £2.5m over on its 1999/2000 budget for the homeless, is seeking an urgent meeting with housing minister Nick Raynsford in which it will explain how it does not have enough properties for families with children. 'If you are looking for bed-and-breakfast accommodation, the best place to look is the seaside,' said a Newham spokesman. 'It's awash with b&bs which are affordable.'

Pete Challis, chairman of the Association of London Government's housing panel, said other councils were watching the Newham case with interest. 'The initial conclusion is that it's going to make it more difficult and expensive for local authorities to find temporary accommodation,' he said.

A new strategy on homelessness, due to be unveiled by the ALG within the next two weeks, may need to be revised following the Newham ruling. A survey carried out by the ALG last month found councils in the capital expect to spend £110m this year on housing homeless people – 40% more than anticipated.

Use of bed and breakfast has nearly doubled during the past two years and shot up from 4,800 to 5,800 households in the past seven months. About 200 of these are housed in seaside hotels and guest houses, said Challis.

London boroughs claim they only use bed-and-breakfast accommodation in coastal locations as a last resort, and that they always try to choose families without connections to the capital.


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