Leeds taxpayers foot £1m bill for sheltering homeless

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LEEDS City Council has spent just over £1m on providing emergency accommodation for the homeless in the last year.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the £1m spent by the council in 2012/13 was nearly twice the £540,000 from the previous year.

The cost been rising since 2010/11 - when it stood at £209,000 - as the housing crisis continues to deepen in the economic downturn.

Residents are put into emergency accommodation when they are deemed homeless in what is meant to be a temporary move - but figures show people have been going months without a proper home. One stay, in a two-bed private house, racked up 46 weeks in 2012/13, costing a total of 36,463.

The figures also show the cost for placing households in B&B accommodation doubled over the past year - from £83,962 in 2011/12 to £169,348 in 2012/13. One household was placed in a B&B at £45 a night for 41 weeks, from April 2012 to January 2013, costing a total of £12,915.

Council bosses told the YEP it recognised the rocketing costs were “unsustainable” and has now had a radical overhaul of its response to homeless people. Its forecast cost for 2013/14 was expected to fall to £100,000.

Coun John Hardy, lead member for homelessness, said: “The whole system for temporary accommodation has changed now as we knew it was unsustainable.

“There is a new attitude and new way of working, of moving people on and helping them to get sorted out and their lives back on track. We deal with people on the day.”

He added: “We do acknowledge that our temporary accommodation placement costs rose between 2010 and 2013 in part due to the economic downturn and this is a situation that most local authorities will have witnessed. The costs in 2012/13 include work done to ensure we deliver a more modern service that better meets the needs of our users: in the longer term this will substantially reduce our costs and provide a far better service.

“We have made significant progress with the service this year and as of 23 October 2013 the council had just three placements in privately sourced temporary accommodation with none in bed and breakfast accommodation. The decreased costs in 2013 show that we have successfully managed this period of change.”

Coun Hardy said the new system uses B&Bs far less.