The Communities Secretary John Denham has come up with another line of attack on my Council. This time he has blogged on Labour List declaring: “It’s not just Bury, it's other Conservative Councils like Hammersmith and Fulham that are showing their real intention and closing homeless hostels.”
What is the real intention of Hammersmith and Fulham Council towards the homeless? Our real intention is to prevent homelessness of course. We are disposing of homeless hostels because we do not need as many. It is as simple as that. We place the majority of homeless households in better and well managed self contained homes in the private rented sector.. It makes no sense to have empty hostel places. The hostel vacancy rate was 21% before and we have got this down to 14% now.
When we dispose of these homeless hostels all the money is ring fenced to the Housing Revenue Account and used partly to improve the remaining seven hostels we continue to run. Improvements included providing a dedicated hostel for teenage mothers, Spring Cottage. This means teenage mothers who can't stay at home have supervised supported accomodation in a proper mother and baby unit. Under the previous Labour Council teenage mums were spread around the borough in different Council owned hostels in a way that was highly unsuitable for such a vulnerable group.
What makes Denham's attack so muddled is that it is the Labour Government that has asked Council's to stop using hostels as well. What we have achieved in reducing the number that have rely on hostel accomodation is recognised as "good practice" by the Government's own criteria. Are the Government now saying they want to go back to the Poor Law, and prefer Workhouses for the homeless?
Grow up Mr Denham! Thankfully you will have more time to think before you blog after next May.