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Council looking for temporary accommodation for homeless "rather than shipping them out to Slough"

Underspend on project as nothing suitable available

WEST Berkshire Council is looking to purchase more temporary accommodation for homeless people as an alternative to “shipping people out” to Slough.

Addressing a £532,000 underspend for the purchase and refurbishment of new temporary accommodation, executive member for economic development and planning Hilary Cole (Con, Cold Ash and Chieveley) said that the council was looking to invest locally.

She said: “We are looking at actively purchasing three properties for temporary accommodation, which means we will be able to accommodate people in temporary accommodation in West Berkshire rather than shipping them out to Slough to bed and breakfasts.

“I think that is really good for those residents in West Berkshire who, through no fault of their own, become homeless and need temporary accommodation.”

The leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition Lee Dillon (Thatcham North West) asked: “Why didn’t we buy anything?

“Was it that nothing suitable came on the market?

“In which case, fair enough.”

Mrs Cole replied that nothing suitable had come on the market and that the council was looking for “specific accommodation in specific areas”.

She added: “Mainly central so that people can walk.

“There’s no point buying some temporary accommodation out in the rural villages...”

“Like Chieveley,” Mr Dillon quipped, referring to the ward which Mrs Cole represents.

“We could have temporary accommodation in Chieveley,” Mrs Cole replied.

“The problem is that we don’t have as much transport.

“We want to make it easy for people who are in this situation to go about their business.”

Speaking after the meeting, Green councillor Steve Masters (Speen), who himself was homeless for 10 months, said: “I welcome that the council is looking to purchase additional stock, but wonder if ultimately we should be looking at our overallhousing strategy.

“If we as a community invested in true social housing stock, for example building predominantly social housing on council land such as London Road industrial area, this would go somewhere towards addressing the needs of the people on thehousing list and also offering a return on investment in excess of the two per cent forecasts on the commercial portfolio currently held.”

Newbury Constituency Labour Party secretary Tom Tunney, who has previously questioned the council about sending people to Slough, said that more needed to be done.

He said: “It is a good starting point, certainly.

“But there’s nothing positive about homelessness or the vulnerability it causes.

“These problems are a direct result of Conservative nationwide policies.

“It is not an opportunity for Hilary Cole and her colleagues to congratulate themselves for what amounts to putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg.

“We need to tackle the root causes of homelessness and provide a longer-term solution than just temporary accommodation.

“Increasing council housing stock is one way.

“Properly funded support is vital, because poor mental health is strongly linked to struggling to make ends meet and living on the edge.”

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