Hotels for the homeless: Wakefield Council racks up £5 million bill, figures reveal

Around £5 million has been spent by Wakefield Council on hotel fees for the homeless in the past five years, figures have shown.
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Fifteen hotels have been used across the district to house those who are either long-term rough sleepers, or those who have been thrown out of their homes.

Following a Freedom of Information request by the Express, the alarming statistics show an increase in the amount spent on short-term hotel rooms, from just under £100,000 for the financial year 2016/17, to £1.3 million in 2020/21.

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The figures for the last financial year were at £1.1 million in February, and have probably surpassed the amount spent last year.

The council admits the spending is not sustainable.The council admits the spending is not sustainable.
The council admits the spending is not sustainable.

Wakefield Council admits the spending is not sustainable with a need to slash that bill, but insists the majority has not been spent on long-term rough sleepers, but on those who have found themselves on the street after being served notice to leave their homes.

Antony Sadler, Wakefield Council’s service director for communities, said: “We are spending a lot on hotels but we are trying to reduce that over time and our reliance.

“We use hotels because the demand on temporary accommodation outstrips the homes we have.

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“Although we are moving people out, they are not moving fast enough.

Cedar Court Hotel, Calder Grove.Cedar Court Hotel, Calder Grove.
Cedar Court Hotel, Calder Grove.

“We have been working with those individuals to find alternative accommodation.”

The hotels include York House Hotel, Featherstone Hotel, Bank House Hotel, Citi Lodge Hotel, Hotel Accor Castleford, Stanley View Guest House, Rowlands Croft Guest House, Crofton Arms, Travelodge, Holiday Inn, Premier Inn, Cedar Court Hotel, Nite Inn, Hotel St Pierre and Kirklands Hotel.

Mr Sadler said that the council has 189 properties leased from Wakefield District Housing, and 55 from the private rented sector.

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In January this year alone, there were 296 homeless applications.

Citilodge, Wakefield.Citilodge, Wakefield.
Citilodge, Wakefield.

Official government figures show that Wakefield has just five rough sleepers, but it is widely accepted that this is not accurate, with the total thought to be higher.

Plans to open a homeless shelter in the city centre were rejected by Wakefield Council last year, which divided opinion.

Mr Sadler said the council was not “anti homeless shelter” but was concerned about its location, and said the council is looking at longer-term solutions, most notably prevention.

“Hotel stays can only be short-term stays,” he added.

Featherstone Hotel, Featherstone.Featherstone Hotel, Featherstone.
Featherstone Hotel, Featherstone.
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“We’re trying to develop the private rented sector, to encourage landlords to take council clients.

“The council is investing in community services, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, to provide early support.”

He said the Homeless Reduction Act, which gives more power to local councils, encourages people in need of housing to come forward, but is proving a double-edged sword by putting additional pressure on the council.

There are also fears the situation is likely to get worse, as the fallout from Covid continues, as well as the relentless rise in the cost of living.

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“We absolutely need people to come to us sooner, rather than later, it give us more options,” Mr Sadler added.

"It’s a tough job, there are people with a lot of different needs.

Premier Inn, Castleford.Premier Inn, Castleford.
Premier Inn, Castleford.

“We have a really dedicated team working hard to help people move and rebuild their lives. We want to keep people in their homes where possible.

“If we can get in front of things, we can provide the early help. The big issue for us is to provide earlier support for those people so they do not lose their property.”

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Terry Smith, who was behind the application for a homeless shelter in the city centre, has criticised Wakefield Council over the extensive hotel bill.

Mr Smith said: “Unfortunately, just putting people like this in hotel rooms does not address the problem.

“They arrive at this point as something has gone badly out of control in their lives and what they need is guidance and care to get them back on their feet.

“If you just bung them into a hotel room without the help needed, at the very least you perpetuate the problem but in reality probably make it worse.”

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Mr Smith applied to open the shelter at the former Fanny and Barcadi nightclub on Bank Street, but it divided opinion.

Wakefield Council eventually rejected the plans, and Mr Smith is now waiting on the outcome of an appeal.

Meanwhile, anyone in need of help, is being urged to call the council’s housing needs service on 01924 304362 / 304360.