Westminster homeless put in B&Bs 'for too long'

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Westminster Council has apologised for housing families in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit of six weeks.

If families apply as homeless, councils should house them in B&Bs for no more than six weeks, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) said.

But the LGO found that the London council had housed at least 40 families in B&Bs for longer periods.

Westminster Council has offered to pay £500 to those affected who complained.

The ombudsman said it was contacted separately by two women who claimed Westminster left them in B&Bs "for many months".

Investigations found that the women - one of whom had suffered previous domestic violence - had to share kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities with strangers.

Both women said their children had suffered because of their length of stay in bed and breakfasts.

The LGO subsequently found a further 38 complaints.

'Real injustice'

Local Government Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said: "I am in no doubt that the council has taken seriously its obligations to the homeless and welcome what it has now done to get a grip on this problem.

Start Quote

We had not anticipated the severity of how the credit crunch would restrict supply and increase demand from people in the private rented sector”

End Quote Jonathan Glanz Conservative Westminster Councillor

"However the council had not complied with its statutory duties.

"Its failure to avoid the use of bed and breakfast for families in excess of six weeks has caused real injustice to those families."

Conservative Westminster Councillor Jonathan Glanz said: "We recognise that families should not remain in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than six weeks and apologise to households who were in this situation.

"Despite our extensive planning for the implementation of the housing benefit cap, we had not anticipated the severity of how the credit crunch would restrict supply and increase demand from people in the private rented sector.

"At times we dealt with more than five times the usual homeless acceptances - up to 100 each month."

He said that by July no family had been in B&B accommodation for more than six weeks.

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  1.  
    11:30:

    At the press conference, Det Ch Insp Andy Chalmers said: "Boy do I wish we found her [Alice] earlier".

    Her body was found in the River Brent just over a month after she was last seen.

     
  2.  
    11:26:

    His body was found here in Boston Manor Park on 4 October.

    Boston Park
     
  3.  
    11:22:

    CCTV evidence suggested Zalkalns would have passed Alice on the towpath at about 16:10 on 28 August, when he stopped for at least 80 minutes, police said.

    CCTV of Alice Last sighting of Alice

    When he reappeared on camera, his appearance indicated he might have been in the water.

     
  4.  
    11:19:

    The Met Police has released images of the last sighting of Zalkalns.

    Arnis Zalkalns

    Here he was visiting a newsagents several days after he had murdered Alice.

     
  5.  
    11:10:

    CCTV timeline:

    • The last known sighting of Alice is of her walking north at 16:26
    • The last connection between her phone and a cell mast was at 16:28
    • Her phone disconnected from the network at 17:11
    • Zalkalns would have overtaken Alice on the tow path at about 16:10
    • CCTV suggests he must have stopped for at least 80 minutes, and when he reappeared on camera his appearance indicated that he may have been in the water
    • Zalkalns returned to the tow path that evening, the following morning - when there is a significant period of time unaccounted for- and again on the evening of 29 August.
     
  6.  
    11:07:

    Here's a recap of the key points which have come out of today's press conference with the detective in charge of the investigation.

    • The single DNA sample from Alice's skin "strongly supports" a match to Zalkalns
    • Zalkalns returned to the tow path near Alice's body three times
    • Police say even if they had known earlier about Zalkalns' murder conviction in Latvia it would not have saved Alice

    For more details, see the BBC News report.

     
  7.  
    11:00: News on the hour BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Det Supt Carl Metha tells BBC London 94.9 they are confident the Latvian builder was responsible for Alice's murder last year.

    In the 11:00 bulletin, he describes some of the evidence they found against Zalkalns.

     
  8.  
    10:56:

    Det Ch Insp Andy Chalmers said: "I believed it was important for the CPS to assess the evidence that the investigation team had found against him (Zalkalns) to reassure Alice's family and the community, who were so affected by her disappearance.

    "The public support for our investigation in the local community was overwhelming.

    "I hope that the CPS's decision that, if he was alive, Zalkalns would have been charged with Alice's murder will in some way help the community come to terms."

     
  9.  
    10:54:

    Police also revealed that Zalkalns had returned twice to the area where Alice was last seen and had searched her name online as reports of her disappearance emerged.

     
  10.  
    10:43:

    The family added: "Although we now have certain information about how Alice died, we are still left with some serious unanswered questions about what the authorities knew or should have known about the man who is believed to have killed our daughter when he came to the UK."

     
  11.  
    10:39:

    In a statement today, Alice's family said: "It remains impossible to describe the pain of losing Alice. Her death has left a hole in our lives that can never be filled.

    Alice's family Alice's father Jose, mother Rosalind Hodgkiss and sister Nina Gross

    "Every day is a reminder of her life and her loss, and it is hard to imagine a future in which we can find peace and healing.

    "Her brutal murder remains shocking, an appalling senseless act that is still difficult to believe or understand."

     
  12.  
    10:29:

    Arnis Zalkalns was first linked to Alice's disappearance after he was filmed cycling along Brentford Lock canal towpath shortly after the school girl walked along it.

    Arnis Zalkalns
     
  13.  
    10:20:

    Key points:

    • At a press conference held today, the Met said the key suspect in her disappearance, Arnis Zalkalns, would have been charged with Alice Gross' murder
    • His body was found hanged in a park several days after the 14-year-old's body was discovered
    • Police said the motive for her death was "most likely sexual"
    • Alice went missing on 28 August near to her home in Hanwell, west London
    • She died from compression of the chest
     
  14.  
    10:17: Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    Alice's body weighed down with bricks, sections of tree trunks, covered with branches. The bag used to conceal her body matched the next bag on roll from Zalkalns' workplace.

     
  15.  
    10:07:

    Although police think the motive was sexual, there was no evidence that she was sexually assaulted, said BBC London reporter Nick Beake who is at the press conference.

     
  16.  
    10:01: News on the hour BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Get the latest from the press conference on Alice Gross with reporter Anna O'Neill in the 10:00 bulletin.

     
  17.  
    09:52:

    Her cause of death was given as compression of chest probably caused by a heavier body lying on and crushing her weaker body.

    The conclusion was reached by a process of elimination as no other obvious marks or injuries were found on her body.

     
  18.  
    09:41:

    Her cause of death was "compressive asphyxia".

    Alice Gross
     
  19.  
    09:39: Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    Police say even if they'd known earlier about Mr Zalkalns' murder conviction in Latvia it would not have saved Alice.

     
  20.  
    09:38:

    No-one else was involved in Mr Zalkalns' death. He was found hanged in woodland in Boston Manor Park, near Hanwell, on 4 October.

    Check BBC London's timeline for more details of how Alice's murder.

     
  21.  
    09:35:

    Her disappearance captivated the local area, with yellow ribbons and flowers adorning Hanwell throughout her disappearance.

    Flowers and messages of condolence besides the clock tower in Hanwell
     
  22.  
    09:29:

    Det Ch Insp Andy Chalmers said the motive for her death was "likely sexual".

    The scientific evidence does not link him directly to her death but evidence as a whole would have been enough to charge him with abduction and murder.

     
  23.  
    09:28:

    BBC London's Nick Beake tweets: "Graphic: Alice Gross's body was wrapped in bin bag and weighed down with bricks, logs and a bicycle wheel."

     
  24.  
    09:24:

    At a news conference, the Met also said there was no evidence to suggest Mr Zalkalns was responsible for any other reported crime.

    Arnis Zalkalns

    But the 41-year-old Latvian builder was a convicted murderer who had served seven years in prison in his native country for bludgeoning and stabbing his wife Rudite to death.

     
  25.  
    09:20:

    The police think Alice was murdered before she was reported missing on 28 August. Her body was found on 30 September.

     
  26.  
    09:16: Alice Gross Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    The iPhone cover thought to belong to Alice was found hidden in Mr Zalkalns' garden while a cigarette butt with his DNA on was discovered close to her body.

     
  27.  
    09:15: Alice Gross

    Alice's disappearance sparked what the Met said was its largest inquiry since the 7/7 bombings in 2005.

    Alice Gross

    Hundreds of officers from several forces around the country helped with the investigation. She was last seen walking along a canal near her home in Hanwell, west London, at the end of August.

    Her body was found more than a month later.

     
  28.  
    BREAKING NEWS

    The CPS says it would have charged Mr Zalkalns if he had been alive although there was no forensic or eyewitness evidence, only circumstantial.

     
  29.  
    BREAKING NEWS

    The Met Police have sent a report to the Crown Prosecution Service saying Arnis Zalkalns was responsible for the murder of 14-year-old school girl Alice Gross.

     
  30.  
    09:00: News on the hour Jason Rosam Journalist, BBC London

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    And the wife of a Russian spy who was murdered in London in 2006 says what she hopes an inquiry into his death will achieve.

     
  31.  
    08:51: On air BBC London 94.9 Radio

    London Mayor Boris Johnson is to go ahead with his flagship cycle superhighway on Victoria Embankment.

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    • A care home for the elderly in Rotherhithe is holding cocktail parties to help people with dementia relive their younger years
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  34.  
    08:17: Thameslink service returns Louise Pepper Journalist, BBC London

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  35.  
    08:10: Milder than lately

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    Cloudy conditions will gradually spread from the west, but it should remain dry with a maximum temperature of 9C (48F).

     
  36.  
    08:01: Radio headlines Jason Rosam Journalist, BBC London

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  37.  
    08:00: Rebecca Cafe BBC News

    Good morning. I'll be bringing you all the latest news, sport, travel and weather until 18:00.

    You can email me your comments about the stories of the day or send photos or tweet @BBCLondonNews.

     

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