West Lothian Council’s huge homeless B&B overspend

Stock photo.
Stock photo.

West Lothian council blew its B&B budget for homeless people by £2 million last year, having allocated £250,000 for emergency accommodation.

Housing teams eventually had to spend  £2,225,385.67  as the  rise in hotel placements reached 1,202 and average stay in hotels increased to 30 days.

Bathgate Councillor Charles Kennedy, questioned the spend in 2018/19 at the recent Performance Committee meeting. Katy McBride, Housing Need Manager responded: We had increasing demand of homeless presentations and we were finding people were staying longer in temporary accommodation which was creating a backlog in emergency accommodation.

“We needed to use  B&B more in order to meet our statutory function of providing emergency accommodation, and people were staying longer.”

She added that the housing teams had worked to reduce the number of people using B&Bs and the length of time they stayed. This has dropped from 30 days down to 24.  Staff are now engaging  sooner with people- before they become homeless -to look at accommodation options through the recently introduced Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan.

“Where people do become homeless we are ensuring that they moving quicker through the system,” said  Ms McBride

Welcoming the downward trend in costs, Councillor Kennedy asked: “How realistic was the  £250,000 budget target?”

Head of the Housing Service Ann Marie  Carr said: “Council recognised last year the £250,000 base budget was not sufficient to meet demand and put additional resources in to allow the Rapid Rehousing Plan to take root.”

Mrs Carr said the council had also struggled to negotiate contracts with many hotels  and this had impacted on budgets. Many now have entered into contracts which allows for more accurate budgeting.

“It has proven challenging to the service,” she added.

Changes in the law will mean B&Bs cannot be relied on for emergency  housing after May 2021.The council’s Rapid Rehousing Plan aims to take control the homeless situation through earlier engagement with people looking for somewhere to live.

A council spokesman said later: “If anyone needs Housing Options Advice and Assistance please contact 01506 280000 and ask for the Housing Options Team.

“If you would like information on your current Housing Application please ask for Allocations.”