This week we took an important step in improving the standard of temporary housing we provide to homeless households in our city for years to come.
On top of doubling the amount of temporary accommodation in the last 12 months, a decision was made at Monday’s city council cabinet meeting to allocate £4 million to invest in temporary housing in Peterborough, writes Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich.
This decision will reduce the number of homeless families accommodated in bed and breakfast-style accommodation, with the aim of stopping the use of Travelodge accommodation. The accommodation we will purchase, through Medesham Homes (a joint property development company operated by the council and Cross Keys Homes) includes 29 new homes in Midland Road and 40 in Bretton Court. The first of these homes will be renovated and available for families to use this summer. Also, with the help of the Combined Authority, there are a total of 175 affordable homes to be built on the John Mansfield school site and the old Frank Perkins Sports Field. Although the rise in homelessness is a national issue, in the city we have experienced a housing crisis due to a 200 per cent rise in the number of households coming to the council as homeless in the last two years. To give you a scale of the issue we are facing, this amounts to more than 350 households.
The cost to taxpayers of expensive temporary accommodation in hotels and B&Bs is something of which we are incredibly conscious. We also appreciate that this kind of accommodation is far from ideal, particularly for those with families. However, up until now, we have had no other options available to us.
By purchasing additional homes in the city, we hope to show our commitment to tackling the housing need in Peterborough, by providing homes that are more suitable for households and also reducing the bill to taxpayers considerably. In addition, four new members of staff have now been appointed to work in our housing team to help households in the city from becoming homeless in the first place. These staff will work with landlords and tenants to keep families in their homes, by providing information, guidance and support on issues such as Universal Credit. All of the above will help to improve both support and living conditions for anyone in Peterborough who finds themselves struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
Our Stand Up For Peterborough campaign is progressing, which calls for fairer funding from the government to help us pay for the rising demand for services, such as homelessness, education and adult social care. As well as calling for everyone in the city to stand up and pledge their support to our campaign (by visiting www.peterborough.gov.uk/StandUp) I have also been working behind the scenes to gather national support.
To raise the matter nationally, this week I travelled to London to take part in a discussion held by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The discussion featured a mix of local authority officials, local government experts, researchers and journalists who are interested in reporting on our Stand Up For Peterborough campaign in the national media. The event went well and I came away feeling that together with other local authorities facing similar funding issues, we have a compelling argument to put forward to government officials, with the hope of achieving fairer funding in the future. I attended the launch of the Family Safeguarding Team in Peterborough last week, a completely new approach to child protection which works with the entire family unit, in the family home. The service is a continuation of an approach piloted in Hertfordshire, which became the overall winner of the Guardian Public Service Awards 2017. Its main aim is to reduce the number of children needing to be subject to child protection and to avoid care proceedings and children coming into care wherever possible. We are grateful for financing from the Department for Education’s Innovation Fund to allow us to deliver this scheme. There was a celebratory atmosphere at St George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool on Tuesday. The pool on Dogsthorpe Road has been closed since last spring after a leak was discovered in the pool. Facilities like this are very important to have in our community. In the case of St George’s, the hydrotherapy pool is used for exercising to help people manage pain and health conditions. So the pool’s re-opening following a programme of refurbishment and repair means that 2018 has got off to a great start for those that use it.
Finally, the new Dean of Peterborough, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston, will be installed this weekend. With the iconic Peterborough Cathedral celebrating its 900th anniversary this year, I welcome the new Dean to our city and look forward to seeing what the future will bring under his guidance.