Homelessness costs soar as Wirral Council grapples with housing crisis

Wirral Council is spending four times as much on bed and breakfast accommodation for the homeless than it did four years ago.

According to a Wirral Council report, there are currently 105 households being supported by the local authority in temporary accommodation, 73 of which are in bed and breakfast accommodation.

This is more than double the figure in December 2021 where 38 households were homeless but costs have risen further.

Nearly half of the council’s housing support budget is currently being spent on bed and breakfasts which have increased in use by 109% since 2021. In 2019, over £400,000 was spent on temporary accomodation but this is now £1.6m over the last 12 months and £200,000 more than expected.

Homeless costs significantly increased during the pandemic when the government mandated that councils house all homeless people.

The report said this demand was predicted to stay the same or slightly increase but “due to the unforeseen global factors that influenced levels of homelessness, this was not the case and, consequently, expenditure has continued to remain at high levels due to the reliance on emergency B&B accommodation.”

The report said this was due to a number of factors including a lack of investment across the country in social housing, the Covid-19 pandemic, cost of living crisis, as well as the increase of no fault eviction notices by 18% in 2022. Government requests for housing assistance for refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine have also contributed.

Wirral Council said demand was presenting a challenge for the local authority which has steadily risen since 2021 with total housing support costs now over £3.3m. The local authority said demand has meant some people are being forced to move outside of the Wirral with some families staying in bed and breakfasts for longer than six weeks.

To address the backlog, the local authority has been moving families into social housing with 132 households moved between April 2023 and March 2024. It is also supporting a number of homeless support services as well as double the number of temporary accommodation units to 50 supported by government grants. The UK Government also awarded Wirral £1.4m as part of its plans to tackle rough sleeping.

However, the report also said the UK Government freezing subsidies for temporary accommodation in 2011 means Wirral Council receives the same amount of money for each household as it did 13 years ago despite costs and rental charges going up.

The report is being published ahead of a Wirral Council regeneration and housing committee meeting on March 27 where councillors are being asked to approve a five year review of Wirral homelessness in the next year with a new policy to be put forward to help tackle the issue.

Councillors unanimously in December 2023 requested for the report quoting statistics that said 419 people on Wirral have been put at risk of homelessness due to a no-fault eviction since the government promised to ban Section 21 no-fault eviction notices in April 2019 and that by May 2024, over 3,000 Wirral households were due to remortgage.

At the meeting on 4 December, Wirral Council leader Cllr Paul Stuart said, “As one of the most wealthiest countries in the world, I think it is shameful that we are in a position where we have people who are living in bedsits, we have families that are living in bedsits and living in emergency accommodation because of the housing crisis that we have.”

At the 27 March meeting, councillors will also be asked to approve reports on a proposal to introduce a licensing scheme for landlords around Paterson Street and Park Close in Birkenhead in an effort to raise housing standards as well as work to improve housing insulation.

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