Croydon’s Conservative-run council’s “doubly illegal” mishandling of the borough’s homeless families could end up costing Council Tax-payers hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation, according to a report this week by the Inside Housing website.
Croydon’s shameful record on providing emergency housing for the borough’s homeless was highlighted by BBC’s Newsnight last year, when our council’s treatment of families with young children forced to live in squalid and cramped conditions for weeks on end, was described as “an indictment of modern Britain”.
“It’s illegal because they’ve got people in bed and breakfast for more than six weeks, and secondly illegal because they’ve got people in property that is clearly unacceptable,” the ConDem government’s housing minister, Don Foster, told the BBC at the time.
Then, it was estimated that Croydon had nearly 200 families in emergency accommodation. Croydon’s waiting list for council accommodation now numbers 7,000. Having failed to build adequate numbers of social homes over the past seven years, Croydon’s Tories have borrowed £20 million to buy 100 homes in an emergency measure.
Now, as well as facing prosecution in the courts for the mistreatment of homeless families forced to stay in sub-standard accommodation, Inside Housing suggests that Croydon will also be expected to pay at least £500 to every family it illegally placed in B&Bs for more than six weeks and an extra £500 for every six weeks thereafter, following a precedent set recently by another Tory council, Westminster.Westminster was forced to cough up the penalty payments after the Local Government Ombudsman found it had caused “injustice” to the households. Westminster’s bill could amount to up to £450,000, as the ruling applies to as far back as 2011.
And Croydon already has form with the LGO: in December last year, the Ombudsman condemned our council for “maladministration causing injustice” in the case of one young mother and her three children, who were left waiting by the borough’s housing department for 10 months. On that occasion, the Ombudsman ordered Croydon to pay £2,500 in compensation.
Dudley Mead, the spineless deputy leader of the Conservatives on Croydon Council, sulked when told of the Ombudsman’s ruling. “We have a crisis going on and all the Ombudsman can do is criticise,” Mead complained, clearly more worried about his own reputation than ensuring that the council fulfills its responsibilities to the poor and vulnerable.
Mead – who together with his councillor wife pockets nearly £100,000 a year in council “allowances” – said that he felt the decision might create a “dangerous precedent” (no shit, Sherlock). Surely it is only “dangerous” for those councils who fail to act as the law requires?
If the Ombudsman’s Westminster ruling is applied to Croydon, the Council Tax-payer will be expected to foot the bill for Mead and his chums’ incompetence.
Inside Housing reports that in May, Birmingham Council had to pay nearly £4,000 to a family of five it housed in the same room in a B&B for 17 weeks. One woman was paid £250 compensation in Newham last November because she couldn’t even get an appointment at Housing Options for two-and-a-half months.
Inside Housing states: “The problem with these spiralling costs is that this is money the council is never going to see again – it goes straight into the hands of booking companies, or in today’s case, to the families. If the council was able to stop people becoming homeless in the first place, or was able to procure enough temporary and permanent housing, the expense for housing homeless people would be a lot easier to stomach.”
That Mead and his colleagues, such as council leader Mike “Wannabe MP” Fisher, have allowed the borough’s housing crisis to develop, over the five years since the Credit Crunch, and while it is in the midst of the £450 million CURV property deal with Laings, makes their mismanagement all the more worthy of condemnation.
- Croydon’s B&B nightmare: “an indictment of modern Britain”
- Croydon found guilty of “maladminstration causing injustice”
- Did Mead mislead Town Hall over Newsnight interview?
Coming to Croydon
- Tea at Five at the Spread Eagle: Oct 2-4
- Minster’s musical celebration for Silver Sunday: Oct 6
- Rent at the Secombe Theatre: Oct 9-12
- Debate the future of arts in Croydon: Oct 10
- Stanley Lives – open day in South Norwood: Oct 12
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- Council gets cash to help homeless families in B&Bs (24dash.com)
- Clean Up Croydon! (cleanupcroydon.com)
- Riesco Collection at Croydon Museum (lineandwash.blogspot.com)