Emergency housing in Brighton and Hove to be made more welcoming for poorest tenants

Homeless people given emergency housing in Brighton and Hove look likely to be offered better properties and facilities.

The move follows a row between councillors about the trade-off between quality and cost at a time when the housing budget is expected to be £1.1 million overspent.

If the proposals are ratified, tenants will have free wifi, basic kitchen equipment such as kettles, crockery, and cutlery and access to a washing machine and tumble dryer.

Brighton and Hove City Council will pick the bill for service charges such as the utilities in communal areas and their upkeep as well incentivise fewer evictions and review the number of room inspections.

And caretakers could be given enhanced training to help them provide better support for vulnerable tenants on top of their traditional responsibilities.

Labour councillor Nikkie Brennan and Green councillor Amy Heley have been pushing for the changes which are expected to add £300,000 to the budget for short-term and emergency housing.

But at a meeting of the council’s Housing Committee, Conservative councillor Mary Mears, a former leader of the council, accused Labour and the Greens of stitching up a deal before any debate had been allowed.

The changes will be phased in as existing contracts come to an end and new contracts are agreed with property owners.

Councillor Brennan, deputy chair of the council’s Housing Committee, told the meeting at Hove Town Hall that she had listened to people in emergency and temporary accommodation and understood what they needed.

She said that the proposals were about social value and people’s life experience which were more important than money.

And she added: “If we have to take it in-house to make sure it runs more smoothly and we have to spend a little bit more money on it, we should be applauded not judged because we are spending money on human beings and their experience of life.”

Officials are also looking at using a “dynamic purchasing system” to save money. It would rely on the council calling on providers from an approved list as and when needed.

This would involve shifting from the existing medium to long-term contracts with a few big providers such as Baron Homes and Helgor Trading.

But Councillor Mears said that when the council switched to a dynamic purchasing system for home to school transport, the move was beset by problems.

She said: “I don’t support the dynamic purchasing system at this time because of the debacle around home to school transport using this type of contract.

“I have a nervousness around these systems and would prefer to see something in this council to show that this contract under this structure has worked. I have no confidence in this type of contract whatsoever.”

Crucially, the council expects to be able to rent premises from many more providers than it was able to find in the transport sector, enabling it to keep better control of costs.

The council’s head of temporary accommodation Sylvia Peckham said that the dynamic purchasing system was already working better than the fixed contracts that had previously been agreed by her team.

Thirty “units” were already available and the council was looking to buy more although it aimed to cut the number of people in bed and breakfast (B&B) type housing down from about 420 to under 150 over the next few years.

The proposals are due to go before the council’s Policy and Resources Committee at its next meeting at Hove Town Hall on Thursday 5 December.

  1. Hovelassies Reply

    “trade-off between quality and cost”… nonsense. Quality is irrelevant and BHCC pays eye watering rates without any contracts, conditions or questions whatsoever. BHCC spends millions of taxpayers’ pounds on revolting, tired, shabby, soiled, stained, shipped, slum, emergency accommodation in privately run HMOs. No requirement to meet Decent Homes Standards, no contracts, no regular inspections, BHCC brazenly turns a blind eye to transgressions from HMO licences and unlawful renovations. Readily pays >4X the going rate (LHA rate) for accommodation that does not pass the “smell test” and which no-one would live in themselves or consider value for money to the taxpayer. Further, BHCC Adult Social Care dumps seriously ill and vulnerable people in such slums on the pretence of fulfilling their accommodation and care commitments, whilst having informal “supervision” arrangements with the slum landlords. It is a huge racket and must be investigated.

  2. csomm Reply

    The police corruption investigations into the Council housing department around the emergency housing scandal & private landlords are ongoing apparently.

  3. Valerie Reply

    Apparently….

    Indeed….

    Public Questions need to go in for Housing, Full Council on this!

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