Peterborough City Council has been told to “stop dumping homeless families and individuals in Sheffield” by an MP for the city, who has accused the authority of “flouting the law”.
Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts MP, who is the chair of the all-party Housing Communities and Local Government Select Committee, believes the council has broken a new law which states local authorities intending to make an ‘out-of-area placement’ are required to inform the local authority in the area to which they are considering making such a placement.
Mr Betts today said that he had been alerted by South Yorkshire Police to the fact that, over many months, the council has been housing vulnerable individuals and families in hotels across South Yorkshire, including Travelodges in Sheffield, and that he has written to the Housing Minister calling the council’s actions ‘morally indefensible’.
He added: “As far as I can establish this is usually being done without any prior discussion or liaison with Sheffield City Council, nor with the hotels concerned.
“Bookings and payments are being made online by Peterborough council, but there is no other information being provided.
“This is of particular concern where people will naturally be highly stressed, but it is simply outrageous when individuals may be exhibiting signs of acute mental illness, or children are being separated from their schooling.”
The MP went on to say: “It is outrageous if, before the ink is dry on the paper, a council is simply flouting the law. In this case, a Conservative-led council flouting a law passed by a Conservative government.
“It appears that Peterborough council is breaking the law in relation to these out-of-area placements. That is why I have written to the Housing Minister asking him to act.”
The Peterborough Telegraph reported last week that homeless families from Peterborough had been sent by the council to a Travelodge in Doncaster.
At the time council cabinet member Cllr Peter Hiller, in response to criticism from South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, and Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said he agreed that the authority “could have worked closer with the council in Doncaster”.
Meanwhile, Mr Betts has revealed a letter he was sent from Superintendent Paul McCurry at South Yorkshire Police.
It states: “It would appear that due to accommodation difficulties within Peterborough, the local authority have decided to book various Travelodges. It would also appear that each respective local authority where the Travelodge is situated are not notified in advance.”
He added that Travelodge had “one male stop for weeks, and he has had to change rooms to prevent him being classed as a resident due to having resided there for so long.”
He also claimed that bookings and payments from the council at the Travelodge are made online, meaning the Travelodge does not have any background information. He added: “When the people arrive they are asked to confirm the address the booking was made under, to which they give the council address.”
A council spokesman said: “When placing families into temporary accommodation in the Sheffield area we carried out full assessments and remained responsible for their support and welfare. Our officers were in regular contact with the families to check on their wellbeing and they have all since moved back to Peterborough.
“We do not have anyone placed in temporary accommodation in Sheffield currently and have not had since June 2018.
“We accept that in some cases we should have notified the receiving authorities, but it was never our intention that households would be accommodated out of area for longer than two weeks at a time and there was never an expectation that any support from authorities was needed. If we had concerns we would have raised them.
“Homelessness is a national issue which is affecting many local authorities and we are actively working to increase the supply of both temporary and permanent housing in Peterborough.
“Our reliance on Travelodge is reducing month by month, with 21 household currently accommodated, which is the lowest it’s been for some time.”