Decision to ‘overspend by millions’ on £13m Peterborough homeless estate challenged by councillors

A decision to ‘overspend by millions’ on buying up homeless accommodation in Peterborough has been challenged by city councillors.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 10:00 am
Residents of St Michael's Gate and nearby estates protest against the evictions

As previously revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph, the city council has struck a deal to buy 72 homes at St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell for £13.38 million, of which some of the money will be spent on making urgent repairs to all of the windows.

It has been claimed that the homes were originally valued at £7 million by the council, which has been leasing them from private firm Stef & Philips for the past three years.

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Both cabinet member for housing Cllr Steve Allen and council leader Cllr John Holdich have acknowledged that the authority is paying over the odds for the properties which are currently being used as temporary accommodation, but with Peterborough suffering a homelessness crisis they are nervous that another buyer may nip in, forcing them to move dozens of families elsewhere.

Cllr Allen told the PT: “I think we are paying too much, but sometimes in life you have to pay a bit more.

“For instance, if a house you want to buy is a bit more than it’s worth, or as a business, so you have control over a situation.”

“The houses are now available and we are fulfilling our obligations to the homeless.

“We can now get rid of paying £600,000 a year to the landlords and have an appreciating asset. It’s the right thing to do - it’s a no brainer.”

The homes are owned by Paul Simon Magic Homes and managed by Stef & Philips.

Opposition councillors have now requested an official call-in of the decision to buy the properties. This would allow them to challenge the decision in front of a council scrutiny committee which could then recommend a re-think by the Conservative-run administration.

A council spokeswoman said it had received the call-in request, although no decision is believed to have made on it yet.

The reasons behind the call-in have yet to be revealed.

Should the deal eventually go ahead it will bring a close to a three year saga after Stef & Philips evicted the families at the 72 homes before signing a three year deal with the council for it to use the properties as temporary accommodation for the city’s homeless.

The deal was widely criticised at the time, with the council repeatedly insisting that if it had not agreed the lease, Stef & Philips would have partnered up with another authority which would have moved its homeless families into Peterborough.

Despite its argument the council faced heavy criticism for not turning its back on Stef & Philips, while national and international media followed up the PT’s revelation at how an entire community could be torn apart in such a way.

Stef & Philips has criticised media coverage around St Michael’s Gate while insisting “the suggestion that ‘this is all about money’ could not be further from the truth.”