London's emergency housing bill soars under coalition government

News Image

More than half a billion pounds has been spent by London's boroughs on emergency housing since the general election, new figures have revealed.

Local authorities have spent more than £630 million since 2010 on placing people in temporary accommodation, such as hotels and B&Bs, after they presented themselves as being homeless.

Haringey Council racked up the biggest bill with a spend of £197m, followed by Westminster with £111m and then Enfield with £59m.

Some of the other highest spends included Kensington and Chelsea with £53m, Newham with £35m and Islington with £33m.

Westminster Council said it had seen a £13m increase in the last year which was due to a rise in homelessness in their authority.

The information, gained through freedom of information requests by the Press Association, also revealed that last year there were more than 180,000 people on housing waiting lists in the capital.

Labour criticised the figures saying the number of families with children living in such accommodation was at a 10-year high.

Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister, said: "These figures show the scale of David Cameron's failure to tackle the housing shortage which is central to the cost-of-living crisis.

"The government has presided over the lowest number of homes built since the 1920s and we've seen homelessness and rough sleeping rise by a third since 2010.

"The number of families with children living in bed and breakfasts is at a 10-year high which is causing misery for them but is also costing the taxpayer more with local authorities having to spend more on emergency accommodation because of the government's failure.

"Labour would tackle this crisis by doubling housebuilding to 200,000 homes a year by 2020."

In other large authorities across the country, Leeds said it had spent over £10m, Cornwall more than £6m, Sheffield £605,000, Newcastle £768,000 and Bristol £771,343.

Housing charity Shelter also condemned the figures.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Behind these figures are homeless families trapped in temporary accommodation for months or sometimes years, with no chance to put down roots or bring up their children in a stable home.

"Our welfare system must be fair, but these figures show that cuts to our housing safety net are simply a false economy, leaving more families stuck in emergency accommodation like bed and breakfasts, while the cost to the public purse soars.

"The only way to bring down these costs is to protect the safety net that stops more of us spiralling down into homelessness, and to build the affordable homes we desperately need."

In response, the Department for Communities and Local Government said homelessness was lower now than in 27 of the previous 30 years.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: "Net current expenditure on homelessness by local authorities in England was £298m in 2009-10, £343m in 2010-11, £305m in 2011-12 and £342m in 2012-13.

"This covers expenditure on temporary accommodation, homelessness prevention, homelessness support and administration.

"Homelessness is lower now than in 27 of the last 30 years. We have retained a strong homelessness safety net protected in law, supported by £470m of funding (over and above general grant to local authorities) in the current spending review to prevent and tackle homelessness, rough sleeping and repossessions."

All but nine of the London boroughs responded to the freedom of information requests.