The Government has hit back at ‘misleading’ claims from Peterborough City Council over its projected £1.2 million hotel bill for homeless families.
The council had claimed that it had been forced to put up families in one of the city’s three Travelodges due to government reforms.
These were the roll-out of Universal Credit (merging benefits into one payment) and higher taxation on landlords.
However, A government spokesman said:”There are many reasons for homelessness and to suggest that it is due to welfare reforms is wholly misleading.
“Councils have a responsibility to house families in settled accommodation as quickly as possible, which is why we have given them the tools to achieve this.
“One person without a home is one too many and we are investing over £500 million to tackle homelessness and stop it happening in the first place.”
The council has run out of hostel beds and B&B rooms to house homeless families, with the number of people presenting themselves as homeless rising from an average of 60 to 90 in 2012 to 150 last month.
Adrian Chapman, council service director for adult services and communities, called it an “unprecedented spike.”
He added that a number of landlords were no longer taking on tenants on housing benefit because they were “nervous” they would not get the rent.
This followed the phased roll-out of Universal Credit in Peterborough from last December which sees housing benefit given to tenants rather than directly to landlords.
Mr Chapman’s comments have also drawn a critical response from Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson and North West Cambridgeshire MP (and former Department for Work and Pensions minister) Shailesh Vara.
Mr Jackson said Universal Credit will help get claimants into good quality work and that it would have teething problems, adding that the city council needs to work harder to deliver more affordable homes for working people.
Mr Vara said he was not convinced that landlords were not taking on people in receipt of housing benefit.
The council is now preparing to sign a deal with estate agents Stef and Philips Ltd which has bought 74 properties from a private provider at St Michael’s Gate off Keys Park, Parnwell.
The tenants at the homes have stayed beyond their fixed terms and will be evicted, with the council able to use the properties for overnight stays.