Four “vulnerable” families from Peterborough who were moved almost 90 miles to stay in a Doncaster Travelodge caused so many problems that calls for help from the police spiked.
Senior officers at South Yorkshire Police realised there was a particular problem after the numbers of incidents around the town’s Travelodge spiralled. Subsequent investigations found that Peterborough City Council was using the hotel to put up families with problems because of local accommodation shortages.
The impact on policing in Doncaster was such that senior officers intervened and those involved in the troubles were moved back to Peterborough.
It is unclear how many individuals were involved but Peterborough City Council has now accepted it should have worked more closely with Doncaster Council.
The situation was revealed by Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts at a meeting of the Public Accountability Board hosted by South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings.
Mr Roberts said: “We have had demand at Doncaster from Travelodge that is unusual. Vulnerable people are being sent.
“Peterborough Council were telling people they had picked a Travelodge in South Yorkshire. There was no communication with us. We raised it with the local authority but they had not been approached by Peterborough.
“It is not fair to the vulnerable person who is given a train ticket and pointed north. It is not fair on staff in the Travelodge. It is not fair on other residents. It is not fair on our staff.”
The situation has now been addressed between the police and Peterborough City Council and it has been raised with the Government.
Dr Billings told Mr Roberts: “It is scandalous what you have described. I assume other councils are doing similar things?”
Mr Roberts said: “It is something we are now aware of. It is a stunt which is out there.”
In response to the matter, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for housing, planning services, growth and economic development Cllr Peter Hiller said: “I agree we could have worked closer with the council in Doncaster while supporting these four families, who are now back in Peterborough.
“At the time following assessment with the families we did not anticipate any support from authorities in Doncaster was needed. If we had concerns we would have raised them.
“Shortages in emergency accommodation, homelessness and housing are national problems affecting all local authorities.
“We want to avoid situations like this in future and want a long term solution. We have raised these issues nationally, along with many other councils and the LGA (Local Government Association) and we are working hard to increase the supply of both temporary and permanent housing in Peterborough.
“This is why we have secured £35 million for significant investment in local housing.”
The Peterborough Telegraph revealed last week that 44 homeless households are being put up in Travelodges which are far more expensive for the authority than housing families in council-owned accommodation.
The spend by Peterborough City Council on temporary accommodation increased from £280,384 in 2015/16 to more than £3.7 million in 2017/18, the last financial year.
The council said an “unprecedented increase” in the number of households presenting themselves as homeless was the cause of the rise.
The number of homeless households in the city rose from 97 in 2015 to 328 two years later which the council said was largely due to welfare reforms and a greater tax burden on landlords.