WEST Berkshire councillors have approved the purchase of more temporary accommodation as the cash-strapped local authority struggles to meet its statutory homeless duties.
Last year it was revealed that the council may be in breach of its legal obligation, with councillors meeting in secret in August 2016 to approve a £3m spend to purchase more units.
However, due to a change in circumstances and a revised purchase price of the earmarked accommodation, councillors last month again met behind closed doors to give the go-ahead.
According to a council report, the £3m capital budget spend approved in 2016 was for the purchase of 21 temporary accommodation units, which would replace units that are due to be lost through development.
And last week housing officers recommended that councillors once more approve the purchase, advising it would be difficult to source alternative freehold units while housing management costs would be higher in dispersed units.
The undisclosed building is currently empty and the council says the housing service has homeless households ready to move into the accommodation.
Officers also said the purchase would mean more homeless households could be accommodated locally and bed and breakfast costs reduced, meaning the council meets its statutory duties.
At a meeting on Thursday, July 27, members of West Berkshire Council’s executive committee approved the purchase.
As the decision was held in Part II, which meant the press and public were excluded, it is not known if the approved purchase is for the same number of units as agreed in 2016, nor is it known exactly how much the units will cost.
The Newbury Weekly News has approached West Berkshire Council for clarification.
Recent government figures showed there were 53 West Berkshire households in temporary accommodation, including 13 in either a bed and breakfast or hostel, as of March 2017.
A local authority has a duty to provide temporary accommodation to families and individuals who find themselves without a home who meet certain criteria.
In March, a report said that the local authority could be in breach of its statutory duty by housing families in B&Bs for longer than the six-week legal limit.