Shepway District Council (SDC) have spent more on B & B accommodation in the first six months of 17/18 (Apr – Sept), than they have since they begun publishing their payments to suppliers data. Last year, for the whole year, SDC spent £573,535, as is evident from the graph below.
Between April – Sept 17/18 according to SDC’s payment to suppliers data, they have spent £657,958, so far on B & B accommodation. If the rate of spend continues, SDC are likely to break the million pound barrier on B & B accommodation, for the first time ever.
When the first six months of 16/17 (Apr – Sept) are compared to the first six months of 17/18 (Apr – Sept), the rise in costs for B & B show a dramatic 200% increase in expenditure, on B & B accommodation. In financial terms this is an increase of £436,981.
Two documents released within 2 days of each other in July 2017, one by the Local Government Association (LGA), released at the Local Government Association Conference in Birmingham, the other a Parliamentary Briefing Paper, both set out how bad mental and physically living in B & B is for people. Furthermore the Parliamentary Briefing Paper shows how for the last twenty three years, the numbers in “temporary accommodation” in the UK is higher than in the same quarter a year previously. So SDC’s data fits perfectly with the trend mentioned in the Parliamentary Briefing Paper.
Shepway for those of you who do not know has 1500 households or over 3000 people on its current housing waiting list. There was a twenty one year hiatus on building any social housing homes across Shepway; which ended in 2014/15. The Cabinet member responsible for Housing and B & B is Cllr Alan John Ewart James, (pictured).
In 2012 it was SDC’s intent to build 300 new social housing homes, across the district. However, this changed when the then Chancellor, Mr Osborne, dropped rents in social housing by 1% each year till 2020. This significant loss of revenue forced SDC to cut the figure to 200 homes.
In the LGA “Housing and Homelessness” Report it mentions the following:
Reducing the use of B&B accommodation for families is perhaps the most important single goal that many councils face in their homelessness provision.
Not only is B&B for families illegal, except in an emergency for up to six weeks, but it usually provides poor quality, overcrowded accommodation with shared facilities, which are likely to have a real impact on the mental and physical health of both children and their parents who stay in the accommodation for any length of time.
B&B for families is also currently very expensive to councils, who cannot recoup the full costs of B&B from housing benefit.
The Parliamentary Briefing Paper July 2017 states:
The number of homeless households placed in B&B accommodation by English local authorities reached 13,550 in September 1991. By June 2017 recorded figures showed 77,240 households in temporary accommodation at the end of March 2017. This marks the twenty-third time that the number of households in temporary accommodation is higher than in the same quarter a year previously.
We wager that Cllr Alan John Ewart James has probably never seen or read these two reports. He is not looking at the data nor listening to what it is saying. Furthermore, we suspect that Cllr Alan John Ewart James cannot interrogate the the SDC payments to suppliers data by using Excel, Access, or Sql Server. If he could, he may have been able to prevent the 200% increase in B & B expenditure. As Alan doesn’t have the capacity or skills sets to interrogate the data, his Officers no doubt do; and they could have, if so minded, shown him this emerging trend in expenditure.
Families with children can only be housed in a bed and breakfast in an emergency and usually only for a maximum of six weeks. After that, the council is legally required to find you somewhere more suitable to live.
Living in a B & B has a real impact on the mental & physical health of both children and parents. It affects schooling, health, work, life chances and much much more. We are talking about real people, mums and dads, boys and girls, skin and flesh, just like us. They are being placed in B&B’s across Shepway due to an ever increasing number of “emergencies”. What issues have contributed to this shocking rise in emergencies which has increased expenditure by 200%?
Building six one bedroom flats at Roman Way, Cheriton, (pictured) or the 28 houses – which was originally 35, under construction at Military Rd Folkestone, will not alleviate the crisis we have in social housing locally. Nor will building the other 166 social housing homes make any significant dent in the numbers of those on the housing waiting list.
There is Money in misery and there is plenty. We have produced two charts to show where the money flows. The charts are for the respective periods Apr – Sept 16/17 & 17/18.
So In 16/17 April Sept Lilac Estates Ltd, is A number 1, top of the list, king of the hill, no little town blues for them. Their last company accounts 31/6/16 show the company grew by £75,000 after tax. Mr & Mrs Rawlings, the owners of Lilac Estates Ltd are doing comfortably well in their ventures.
By the time we get to 17/18 April – Sept, Lilac Estates Ltd are no longer A number 1, Top of the List. That privilege falls to Chandos Premier Ltd, a company only incorporated in August 2016 by twenty one year old Christopher Siedlaczek. The company received £112,000 for housing people in his brothers guest-house. Luke Richard Siedlaczek bought the house in in 2015 for £295,000 according to the Land Registry. Nothing like keeping it in the family.
Alan and his predecessors before him are responsible for the last 21 years hiatus in social housing not being built. Their policy decisions have brought us to where we are today.
Cllr Alan John Ewart-James is responsible and accountable for presiding over the 200% increase. It would appear he does not have control of his portfolio. The fact that he is reliant on officers to crunch the data, demonstrates his inability to independently exam the data, react appropriately and in a timely fashion to prevent any emerging or runaway trends
First elected to SDC via the Hythe Central seat in May 2007, with a vote of 1,120, Alan has sat on a variety of committees across the council. He too has sat on outside bodies as a SDC representative. With ten years experience as a Cllr, Alan John Ewart-James,
has failed the mums and dads, boys and girls who currently live in B & B accommodation in Shepway.
has failed the people of Shepway as the fact based evidence above illuminates.
has failed to obtain value for money.
The graphs and charts drawn from SDC’s own data clearly demonstrate to us Cllr Alan John Ewart-James is not fit for purpose; and should resign his position as Cabinet member for Housing. That’s our personal opinion, we’ll leave you to make up your own mind.
Finally, to think we just have a GP crisis in Folkestone would be incorrect, we now have a B & B crisis. SDC’s own figures on B & B expenditure may well breach the million pound barrier for the first time ever on current projections.
If you’d like to talk to Alan, you can do so by emailing him at:
Please be polite.
The Shepwayvox Team.