Swale council seeks to deal with Kent homelessness

Homeless person Image copyright PA
Image caption In the last financial year Swale Borough Council had 80 households still in emergency accommodation after the legal limit of six weeks

A Kent council with the highest number of households in emergency or temporary accommodation is to use some of its cash reserves to buy an empty property.

Conservative-led Swale Borough Council is to spend up to £180,000 on one property to house three families.

Labour opposition councillors said one building would not solve its "very serious shortage of social housing".

In the last financial year, the council had 80 households still in emergency accommodation after six weeks.

BBC Radio Kent has discovered that councils across the county have been placing people in bed and breakfast and other temporary accommodation for more than the six weeks they are legally meant to.

'Exceptionally slow'

Swale Borough Council, which covers the Isle of Sheppey and the areas around Sittingbourne and Faversham, has £15m in reserves but Conservative councillor John Wright, who is in charge of housing, said it had only been authorised a specific amount to purchase one property.

However, he said it was a "step forward" in dealing with the homelessness problem.

But Labour councillor Roger Truelove said there needed to be more urgency in dealing with the problem, with more invested from reserves, saving money in the long-term.

The council was being "exceptionally slow", he said.

"Labour are fully behind the idea... we would buy more [properties] than I think they're intending to do," Mr Truelove added.

Number of households in Kent placed in emergency or temporary accommodation by councils in the financial year 2013-14
Council Households in B&B Still in B&B after six weeks
Ashford Failed to answer Failed to answer
Canterbury 54 0
Dartford 143 75
Dover 124 66
Gravesham 67 Failed to answer
Maidstone 212 Failed to answer
Medway Would not disclose figures Would not disclose figures
Sevenoaks 11 7
Shepway 196 60
Swale 245 80
Thanet 89 24
Tonbridge & Malling 32 5
Tunbridge Wells 83 35

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