COUNCIL bosses paid nearly £1 million for extra bed and breakfast accommodation last year because of a shortage of accommodation for homeless people.
Although the council has contract arrangements for around 400 B&B places across the city, an increase in demand meant an additional 100 B&B places were obtained outside any contract – which means they are not subject to the same property inspections or health and safety checks.
A total of 15,362 bed nights were purchased “off contract” last year at a cost of £953,006.
A report to the council’s governance risk and best value (GRBV) committee said some B&B properties were fully occupied by the council for the whole year and in some cases the council paid more than the advertised rate for the accommodation.
Green councillor Susan Rae – who has been homeless herself and knows what it is like to live in a B&B hostel – called for an end to the use of B&Bs.
She said: “If bed and breakfast is the answer we are asking the wrong question. This report is simply the latest sign to show that the homelessness service in Edinburgh is in a state of collapse, with almost £1m being spent on B&B places which are not checked for quality and which many homeless people can’t wait to get out of.
“So making a firm commitment to end the use of B&B hostels would not only be better for homeless people, it would save the council millions of pounds too.
“More decent quality council and housing association homes are needed, of course, but, in the meantime, the council should be opening up far more self-contained accommodation on a short-term basis, well-managed and with much more controllable costs. The great B&B scandal has gone on far too long. It must end now.”
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Losing your home is a traumatic experience in itself, but then having to spend time in bed and breakfast accommodation, with no guaranteed standard of the quality, just heaps more misery on people whose lives are already in crisis.
“We need to see many more affordable homes being built so homeless people don’t have to stay in B&Bs and their stay in temporary accommodation can be cut dramatically. This would also minimise the profound impact homelessness has on people and save millions of pounds to the public purse.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The coalition has committed to the creation of the Homelessness Task Force, which will review the use of B&B premises and explore alternatives that better meet the needs of individuals and families.”