Council chiefs accused of hiking rents

AN MP has slammed the council which she claims is trying to plug the hole in their finances by charging tenants in temporary housing rents of up to �700 a week. Karen Buck, MP for Regent s Park and Kensington North, pictured, says Westminster City Counc

AN MP has slammed the council which she claims is trying to 'plug the hole in their finances' by charging tenants in temporary housing rents of up to �700 a week.

Karen Buck, MP for Regent's Park and Kensington North, pictured, says Westminster City Council is attempting to profit from high inner city private rent levels by raising the rents of families in temporary accommodation, starting with properties the council hires through the Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT).

Some 300 properties run by the NHHT will be hit by the rent increases, with 110 of these seeing a rise from the flat rate Private Sector Leasing (PSL) to �715 a week or more.

Ms Buck said: "The council hopes to make almost �2 million a year from the deal, even though it smashes any incentive that homeless households may have to try and hold a job. In practice it will mean the council will seek to profit from housing benefit payments.


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"It makes a mockery of the council's outrage at recent news stories about high housing benefit payments for some tenants - the council is, in fact, deliberately setting such arrangements up in many cases in order to plug the hole in their own finances.

"Despite the rent hikes, the council still places more than 500 families in homelessness accommodation on the other side of the capital, despite many families having children in local schools, jobs and family connections."

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There are currently more than 45,000 homeless households in temporary accommodation in the capital with around �570m claimed in London in 2007/08, according to housing charity Shelter.

Caroline Davey, the charity's deputy director of policy and campaigns, said: "Sadly, for some people 'temporary' can mean weeks, months or even years of being moved around different hostels and poor quality rented housing. Not only does this have a devastating effect on their lives, it is also hugely expensive for the taxpayer."

Philippa Roe, cabinet member for housing at Westminster City Council, said: "This reflects the government review of rents they pay for temporary accommodation.

"It is not driven by the council at all, it is calculated on market rents less 10 per cent to incentivise a good deal with landlords.

"This scheme will enable us to house more people in temporary accommodation in Westminster. It is not something that we are specifically looking to get money out of.

"I don't think Karen Buck is looking at the way government money works here."

sofia.mitra-thakur@archant.co.uk

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