Temporary Accommodation without Cooking Facilities
Ms A R asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage:
In the last 2 years, how many people have been accommodated by the Council in the Stage Hotel or other emergency accommodation without access to cooking facilities in? How many children have been housed in temporary accommodation for longer than 8 weeks? What is the longest period that a person (with or without children) has been housed in temporary accommodation without cooking facilities in the last 2 years?
Councillor Jane Urquhart replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you to the member of the public who raised this question, which seeks to shed light on the present homelessness crisis in our country and our city. People will see from the motion on the agenda for today’s meeting, that this is an issue which Nottingham takes seriously, and one which we’re appalled by. We share a sense of outrage, that in our city, people should have to be accommodated in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation. I am aware that this question was submitted very shortly before the last Council meeting, and in that space of time it wasn’t possible to collate the information, so apologies that we weren’t able to answer it then, but we are after the amount of time we needed to collate the information able to answer now.
Councils up and down the country are working hard to deal with increasing levels of homelessness, and Nottingham is not alone in finding itself struggling to find temporary accommodation for households who present with nowhere to stay. A recent report by the National Audit Office states that the record rise in the use of temporary accommodation is due to the Government’s welfare reforms and the broken housing market. The use of temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts is never a good long term solution – either for the families housed or for the councils making those decisions. Two years ago, this Council did not use bed and breakfast accommodation, and had not done so for some time. We are working hard to get back to this position by finding better, longer-term solutions.
In recent months, we have been able to reduce the number of households in bed and breakfast accommodation by 64%. That still means though, that we have 50 households in B&B accommodation, and that is 50 too many. So we are working hard with our partners to reduce that figure to zero, and we will say more about that of course in the debate later. Over the past two years, 1102 households have been placed in bed and breakfasts in order to meet our statutory duties towards them. This includes a number of single person households, and many of them are placed into bed and breakfasts as an emergency temporary measure to meet our commitment that no one need sleep rough in Nottingham. Our No Second Night Out policy means that we do accommodate people on that short term basis whilst we look for an alternative solution.
We are rapidly reducing our use of bed and breakfast in favour of more suitable accommodation, as well as targeted intervention to prevent homelessness in the first place. This activity has only been possible through the concerted efforts of service providers across our Council, and our partners, and I thank them for their hard work in seeking to resolve this issue. The specific length of time that any household spends in bed and breakfast varies greatly depending upon their circumstances, and there is great range of lengths of stay, starting at 1 night. The average length of stay over the past 2 years was 38 nights. The longest period that any person has been housed in bed and breakfast is 324 days – this case is a single person with no children, and it is a highly complex and unusual case which we are nevertheless working hard to resolve alongside our partner agencies.
We have searched the data that we and our partner agencies have, but we are unable to provide data on the number of children housed in temporary accommodation for longer than 8 weeks over the past 2 years. But I can tell you, that as of today’s date, there remain 26 households who have children in bed and breakfast, again, this is 26 too many. Almost all cases where people are in bed and breakfasts above 8 weeks are there because there are legal complexities in the particular case, such as a statutory review process, or because the family is waiting for a suitable home to be offered to them as an appropriate permanent accommodation. As we have previously discussed in this chamber, government restrictions prevent the Council from building enough social housing to meet the demand, so therefore finding suitable alternative accommodation can be a lengthy process.
Later on this afternoon, I will be proposing a motion which will commit this council to ending its use of bed and breakfast accommodation by the end of 2018. Whilst the rise in homelessness is a national issue, as a Council we want our response to homelessness to be appropriate and compassionate. We know that there are better temporary accommodation solutions than bed and breakfast. I hope that this motion will be passed this afternoon, and that therefore, together with our partners we will work to end the use of bed and breakfast accommodation by the end of the year.
Nottingham City Council loan to Robin Hood Energy
Mr W S asked the following question of the Deputy Leader:
The accounts of Robin Hood Energy show that it owes Nottingham City Council £11.6m. It has been stated that interest is due on this loan at "commercial rates". In addition the accounts state that the City Council has confirmed in writing that it will provide "financial support for the foreseeable future". This support is effectively a guarantee and if provided commercially would be heavily charged for. What is the commercial rate on the loan and what is being charged for the effective guarantee?
Councillor Graham Chapman replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I also thank W S for his question. The City Council has provided support for Robin Hood Energy on a commercial basis, which both conforms to State Aid rules, and provides the City Council with a rate of return. Unfortunately I am not in a position to provide the specific details, which are a matter of commercial confidentiality.
As to the reference in the accounts to “financial support for the foreseeable future”, it is required by any auditor whenever there is a parent company providing a loan facility, or a parent company guarantee to a subsidiary company. Robin Hood Energy are making a market rate payment in exchange for the guarantee. This will also remain commercially confidential.
So again, I would like to thank W S for his question, and the interest he is taking in his own local energy company, and I am sure he will wish them well.