Croydon’s opposition Labour group has demanded the immediate closure of the Thornton Heath B&B hotel used by the council to house the borough’s homeless.
Labour has also demanded an independent inquiry into how the council has failed to take proper care of vulnerable homeless families, many with young children, such as those featured in a shocking report last week on Newsnight.
Labour described the accommodation featured on the BBC news programme as “the most appalling squalor”.
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group at the Town Hall, said, “I am utterly disgusted. Croydon Tories have sunk to new depths and should be ashamed of themselves.”
On the programme, Croydon’s Conservative-controlled council was accused by LibDem government housing minister Don Foster of acting “doubly illegally” towards its homeless, by providing sub-standard accommodation and leaving young families in the inadequate and squalid temporary B&Bs for longer than the maximum six weeks allowed under the law.
Newman called on Mike Fisher, the leader of the Conservative group, to close B&B hotels which failed an independent inspection from an expert brought in by the BBC’s production team.
“Councillor Fisher must now apologise to those families who have been housed in such dreadful misery,” Newman said, describing the accommodation as “dangerous”.
Alison Butler, Croydon Labour’s spokeswoman on housing, said, “We are calling for the immediate removal of families from this low-grade accommodation.
“We are demanding that at the very least Tory-run Croydon Council conducts an independent public inquiry into the way it deals with homeless families. There can be no defence of this terrible injustice.”
Butler was also critical of Croydon Council plans to hand over responsibility for inspecting temporary accommodation – such as that used at the Gilroy Lodge Hotel on London Road – from an in-house environmental team to one run by Bromley.
Jon Rouse, the chief executive of Croydon Council, speaking on camera for the Newsnight programme, denied that the council was acting illegally and claimed that the Gilroy Court B&B on London Road was inspected on a weekly basis.
Butler called on the government to abandon plans to introduce a national cap on housing benefit which is likely to hit the poor in London hardest and so “bring untold misery to hundreds of families in Croydon”.
She said, “A Labour Council in 2014 will introduce an acceptable housing standard programme and launch a major building programme that will mean more high quality homes for local people.”
Last Thursday’s Newsnight has led to calls for Rouse to be sacked from his £248,000 a year job, while also prompting a U-turn from Croydon Tory spokesman Dudley Mead, who has joined the criticism of the government cap on housing benefit.
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- Families placed in B&Bs too long (bbc.co.uk)
- Westfield swoops in early with planning application for Croydon (insidecroydon.com)