Council pays out �27,322 just to keep struggling families off the streets

A SURGE in the number of families in East Cambridgeshire forced from their homes by crippling financial difficulties has cost taxpayers almost �500,000 in the last 12 months.

The figures were brought to light in a report released this week by East Cambridgeshire District Council finance chief Linda Grinnell. who said that a “steep increase” in families becoming homeless had forced the authority to step in.

The district council paid out some �27,322 on emergency bed and breakfast accommodation for families who had lost their homes last year, on top of a bill for �442,014 for tackling the district’s increasing problem with homelessness.

When the figures was set, the authority had originally budgeted for �363,997 in spending on homelessness but such was the strain on services that the budget had to be increase by more than �78,000, some 22 per cent, during the year to cover the extra cost.

Councillor James Palmer, deputy leader at the district council, said: “As we predicted last year, more and more people are seeking our help as financial hardships bite. “There are many factors which have brought about this situation – some unique to East Cambridgeshire and others a sign that homelessness is becoming an issue for authorities across the country.

“For example, people on benefits are facing a desperate struggle to find private rental accommodation while the ripple effect caused by the overheating renting market in Cambridge is forcing those who cannot afford rents in the city to go to other areas. “We also have the sadly real impact of families and relationships breaking up as a result of the tough financial situation many people are facing.”

Late last year, the district council’s head of housing Jane Hollingworth warned that she expected to see a stark increase in homessless people in the district following the Government’s decision to cut housing benefit.

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She said: “People are going to be put under more pressure by this because a lot of private sector tenancies are not going to be available. We don’t know how much we can mitigate this but we are working hard to try.”

The news comes just days after a Romanian family living in a tent in Ely’s Jubilee Gardens were served with a notice to move on.

The family, believed to be a father, mother and son, have been camping in the park for four months but have now been hit with an order to move on by the council after they ignored previous attempts to move them on.

It is understood that the police and UK Border Agency have been asked to step in to ensure the family complt with the order.