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

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.

"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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