Council in £5,000 hotel charge bill

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Cash-strapped South Ribble Council is spending thousands of pounds on hotel bills for families waiting to find out if they’re even eligible for social housing.

The figures emerged after the Leyland-based local authority published details of all its expenditure over £500.

Between August and October, 2010, the council forked out £4,720 in three separate payments to a hotel 15 miles outside of Leyland, where rooms can cost up to £85 a night.

According to the hotel’s website the plush rooms come with a continental breakfast and access to Sky TV and Wi-fi access.

The Leyland Guardian has chosen not to name the hotel because in some cases the victims of domestic violence are accommodated there.

The £4,720 cost relates to emergency accommodation for just three families, who were waiting to see if they were eligible for social housing.

The authority already funds homeless projects in the town such as SLEAP and KEY, as well as sheltered housing.

Under strict rules, South Ribble Borough Council has an obligation to provide help and support for homeless people.

In emergency cases, where women are pregnant, have children, or are unable to return to their home due to a fire or flood, the authority will put them in emergency accommodation up to a maximum of 28 days.

Rates for individuals staying for one night in a single room at the hotel start at £20 with the cost rising for family rooms.

News of the expenditure has come at a bad time for the council, as it has made to make savings of £920,000 from this year’s budget.

Twelve months earlier it had to make £2.2m savings.

Coun Cliff Hughes, cabinet member with responsibility for strategic planning and housing at South Ribble, said: “We have a statutory duty to accommodate some people who tell us they are homeless.

“Reasons for being without a place to stay can vary from fleeing violence at home to being made homeless after a house fire.

“We have a number of places available in temporary accommodation thanks to excellent partnerships with our local housing providers.

“We don’t always have vacancies though, which is when we put up people in bed and breakfasts as a last resort.

“This was the case in August, when three separate households came to us for help. Each had their own complex circumstances which we worked hard to resolve.”