Councillors clash over homelessness in Kettering

Kettering Council's opposition leader says the authority is 'unable to cope' with the number of council housing applications.

Thursday, 4th August 2016, 1:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th August 2016, 2:45 pm
Councillors have clashed over how Kettering Council is tackling a rise in homelessness

At a council meeting last week, it was revealed that 61 households are now in emergency accommodation with 16 of them housed outside the borough.

The proportion of applications coming from those who have lost their rented house has increased from 24 per cent to 56 per cent, while 77 per cent of application are from those with young families - up from 41 per cent.

Cllr Mick Scrimshaw (Lab, William Knibb), said: “The fundamental issue that stops the council dealing with this problem efficiently is the lack of social housing, with the council being told that the numbers of available properties continues to decline.

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“Kettering Council are building a mere five council houses this year and these are the first to be built in Kettering for over 20 years.

“Other councils around the country are in the same position and are actively doing things.

“I met a councillor from Newark and Sherwood Council the other week who told me they had just agreed to build over 300 new homes.

“The overall situation is becoming a real mess and until it is sorted out vulnerable families will continue to be hit. Kettering Council are seemingly unable to cope.”

Cllr Scrimshaw says the Labour group put forward costed council housing proposals but they were rejected - but there has still been no alternative.

He added: “Housing is our biggest priority and we are working to help the Conservative administration to find a solution to the problem.

“In this year’s alternative budget we put forward costed proposals to build council housing this year. These were rejected but no alternative to them has yet been proposed.

“What Kettering Council needs is the same commitment that other councils are showing to come up with an imaginative plan to address the crisis that they find themselves falling into.”

In response, cabinet member for housing Cllr James Burton said: “Homelessness is not just a problem in Kettering borough, it is a national problem. Figures are rising and continue to rise.

“With this in mind members and officers of the council are via the MP arranging a meeting with the Housing Minister to directly put our concerns to Government.

“To put this in perspective nationally in 2015 more than 40,000 households across the country were found to be homeless and in priority need – a rise of 42 per cent in five years.

“In 2015 Kettering borough figures increased to 105 households.

“Also nationally in 2015 71,540 homeless households were living in temporary accommodation – a 49 per cent increase over the past five years.

“Kettering borough figures increased to 47 households in temporary accommodation.

“Kettering Borough Council’s strategy approach focuses on preventing homelessness rather than only helping homeless people at the point of crisis.

“The success of this approach is evidenced by the following:

“Last year our preventative approach helped 130 households who were at risk of becoming homeless to keep a roof over their heads.

“In 2015 we provided homes for 556 households in properties owned by the council and housing associations.

“Over the past five years we have worked with housing associations to build 578 new affordable homes across the borough.

“In 2016/17 another 170 new affordable homes will be built – up from 103 last year, this includes both housing association and council-built homes.

“In addition we will continue to lobby developers for the provision of affordable homes across the borough.

“In October 2015 in partnership with Home Housing, we opened a new hostel for homeless people providing accommodation for 21 households.

“We are also investing in the council’s own housing stock so that it continues to provide safe, secure and energy efficient homes at an affordable rent well into the future.

“Cllr Scrimshaw was made aware of all that we are doing in various meetings to members and the public, so I find it strange that instead of criticizing the council and complaining that we are not doing enough and he will “help us dig ourselves out of the mess we are in” he did not highlight or applaud the efforts that the council are doing to alleviate homelessness in the borough and pledge his support going forward.

“Kettering Council is not sitting back doing nothing and ‘seemingly unable to cope’, as Cllr Scrimshaw says.

“Kettering has one of the best records in the East Midlands for providing new social homes – better than many much bigger cities.

“I do understand the problems encountered by some private landlords tenants and the fact that certain private landlords are unscrupulous and getting rid of those tenants that are only able to pay low rents.

“That may well be the case with some landlords but there are many very good private landlords out there and we cannot tar them all with the same brush.

“Cllr Scrimshaw also states that in his alternative budget they put forward to build council houses this year.

“A very creditable solution but where was the money coming from?

“As part of their alternative budget they also suggested to put council tax up by 1.5 per cent, build a new swimming pool in Kettering, employ plain-clothed dog wardens, 50p parking on Saturday in the council car parks, live webcasting of council meetings, cancelling precepting and re-introducing funding for town and parish councils.

“Obviously building council houses was not their top or biggest priority as he states.”