I had an interesting meeting with housing officers on Hammersmith and Fulham Council this week to go through their proposed budget for the coming financial year.
One significant item is an estimated £436,500 for spending on emergency hotel accommodation for the homeless.
That is expensive – it is equivalent to nearly one per cent of the Council Tax. But it is also highly unsatisfactory for those being place in hotels. Frequently they are vulnerable people – for example those with a mental illness, or drug addicts or alcoholics.
It is a situation that is avoidable.
I have written before about how most of Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s £22.7 million budget for Public Health is wasted. One small bit of that budget (just over two per cent of it) that isn’t wasted is the following item:
“Supportive housing:contribution to the core LBHF housing support services under the condition that commissioners ensure that the housing providers are addressing both physical and mental health needs of residents. Allocated Spend for 2014/15 was £551,300.”
Essentially that half a million pounds goes to funding suitable housing – specialist hostels whether inside or outside the borough – that provide the help and security that is relevant to needs.
If more of the Public Health budget was allocated to this (perhaps if it was doubled to £1 million) rather than being wasted then we would not need to put up homeless people in hotels. Instead they would get suitable accommodation and we could fund a one per cent Council Tax cut.
Why are we spending council taxes putting people up in hotels in one of the most expensive parts of inner London? Don’t say it’s because there isn’t anywhere else.