Our Council has increased its spending by 12 times since 2011, housing homeless families in bed & breakfast accommodation as it sells off available council housing to property developers. I last reported on the selling programme back in 2011 when it was even featured on the BBC. The Council insists that the purchasers of the property do not live in the borough themselves, guaranteeing that it is purchased by developers. As the presenter of the programme described at the time:
"This restrictive clause is essentially a way for the Council to keep all the money made from the sale. If the buyer lived in the flat the government would receive 75% of the capital. So it's good for the council but of course that does limit its attraction to buyers."Since 2011 the human cost of that policy has mounted, as has the financial. Andy Slaughter recently submitted a Freedom of Information request which forced the admission of the escalating spending on B&Bs. You can read the response above.
Speaking yesterday Andy said:
“Hammersmith & Fulham Council are spending almost £1 million a year keeping families in unsuitable bed & breakfast hotels. One hotel alone is getting £250,000 of taxpayers’ money. But this is the same Council that deliberately demolishes, sells off, keeps empty and refuses to build more affordable homes. Their extremist policies are exposed not only as immoral but financially incompetent.”Our Council dispute this interpretation, and speaking in response to the story in 2011 claimed that in fact it was a means of generating much needed funds. Here's Cllr Harry Phibbs speaking on the local Tory blog:
"The proceeds go to the Decent Neighbourhoods pot. They help pay for the capital maintenance programme - especially to reduce crime and anti social behaviour. For items like the current works at Fulham Court (including the Children's Centre) which cost £4.5m"Sounds great in theory - but the numbers revealed by the Freedom of Information request make sobering reading; in 2009 2 families were in B&Bs, in 2010 when the current Council came to power it was 15, by 2011 when the house sell off programme began it rose to 58, while in 2012 it had rocketed to 365 families.
"The funds will also help develop or acquire new affordable housing to meet identified housing needs, including where appropriate extension of current properties - for instance the "Hidden Homes" programme. It will also fund tenant incentive initiatives (qualifying as capital expenditure) that free up council housing which is in demand for those in housing need (e.g. the need for larger family accommodation)."
This rapidly escalating B&B spending would suggest that instead of funding new and upgraded homes, it has instead gone into the trouser pockets of B&B owners. Unless I'm missing something that would mean this policy has impoverished the most vulnerable, cost taxpayers vast amounts of money with the only real beneficiaries being the B&Bs.