Homeless told plan to scrap morning meal is for debate

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COUNCIL chiefs have sent letters of apology to 300 homeless people in bed and breakfast accommodation after jumping the gun on plans to take away their breakfasts.

The B&B residents were told last week that breakfasts would be withdrawn as of December 12 in a council cost-cutting bid.

But when the Evening News highlighted the move, the council said the letter telling them it had been issued in error and the plan was “being consulted on”.

Now officials have issued a second letter, apologising for the mistake.

The council said it still wanted to go ahead with the proposal and would be consulting B&B residents and owners.

However, it could not give a timetable for the consultation or a new target date for introducing the change, which it claimed could save around £250,000 a year.

Tony Winters, who received the original letter and the apology, welcomed the news his breakfasts would not be scrapped next month, but called for “more transparency” over the proposal.

Mr Winters, 43, who has been homeless for more than two years and stays in a B&B at Leith Links, said: “They are trying to target individuals who they don’t think will complain.

“I want to know why this is being withdrawn two-thirds of the way through the financial year and where the money is going. If they have a consultation it is going to come to zero because everyone will say ‘No, we want our breakfasts’.”

In the original letter, the council enclosed a list of charities where homeless people could go instead for free food.

The council said these organisations would now be included in the consultation.

Sister Piotra at the Missionaries of Charity in Hopetoun Crescent, where up to 80 homeless people are served dinner each night, said scrapping breakfasts was not a good idea.

She said: “We provide dinner, but it’s important people can have something hot before they go out in the mornings.”

Josiah Lockhart, general manager at the Grassmarket Community Project, said: “B&B accommodation is meant for people who are homeless, who don’t have anything.

“Working people cannot pay for three meals a day from a cafe, so to expect people in B&B to do so is just ridiculous.”

A council spokesman said: “We offer a range of temporary accommodation for people who are homeless. For the minority who are placed in B&B the council are charged for breakfast. In fact, less than a quarter take breakfast.

“We do not cover any food costs for those in other kinds of temporary accommodation, and need to ensure we are treating people equally. We will now be consulting on this proposal with customers.”