SHROPSHIRE Council has pledged to reduce its reliance on bed and breakfast (B&B) placements for homeless people by spending £1.5 million on houses to use as temporary accommodation.

The scheme, which will also involve the council taking out long term leases with private landlords, was signed off by councillors at a meeting on Thursday.

It is hoped the move will cut the number of households the council is forced to put up in B&Bs, currently around 70, due to a lack of alternative housing options.

There are also ambitions for the initiative to be expanded in the future if proven successful.

Councillor Robert Macey, portfolio holder for housing, said: “The council has always made use of temporary accommodation as part of the solution for those that find themselves homeless.

“While we are always looking for the best and quickest route for people to re-establish themselves in a home, clearly it does take time.

“With a limited supply of properties available to us at any one time for the purposes we are talking about, we have to make use of B&Bs to supplement this.

“This year’s flooding and Covid-19 outbreak has meant we have seen a sharp increase in the number of households needing our assistance.

“The report you have in front of you shows an increase of around 150 per cent by the end of March and this continues to grow.

“We have a welcome temporary ban on evictions but it may be the case that when this is lifted there may be further additional pressures on the system so we must continue to increase our response as we have done thus far.”

A report by Andy Begley, director of housing and acting interim chief executive, said the cost for 70 people to stay in B&Bs for a year was over £1.3 million, of which the council has to pay £941,000 after reclaiming a portion from the government.

He said the new model would reduce annual costs to £419,000, based on 70 households, of which a higher proportion can be reclaimed from the government, leaving the council with a final bill of £116,000.

It is also hoped that temporary housing placements will improve prospects for homeless people to secure permanent homes.

Cllr Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow North, said: “I would like to see these houses spread around the county so that someone who is in difficulty in Ludlow, whose children might go to school in Ludlow, who might work in Ludlow, can actually have a chance of getting accommodation in Ludlow.

“That applies to every market town around the county.”

Cllr Dean Carroll, who represents Battlefield in Shrewsbury, said: “This is really fantastic. I hope that this is proven successful and that we can roll it out even further.

“It is a double win for the council, not only is it good financially because it saves us the exorbitant B&B costs, but it is morally the right thing to do as well.”

Cllr Macey said he was keen to extend the scheme if possible, adding: “This is a really good first step that will allow us to get on with it.”

The £1.5 million – plus stamp duty and VAT – will come from money paid by housing developers under ‘section 106’ agreements.