THE council has agreed to pay compensation to a homeless family kept in a bed and breakfast for more than seven months. In a yet to be published ruling, the local government ombudsman has found Croydon Council guilty of an administrative fault. The ombudsman has ordered the authority to pay £1,475 and to send a written apology to the woman and her two children. By law, homeless families are not allowed to stay in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than six weeks. According to industry publication Inside Housing, the family were placed in a bed and breakfast in Croydon where they spent more than half a year living without cooking facilities and in the same premises and single men who had recently been released from prison. The council did not move the family until a solicitor threatened a judicial review in October 2012. Inside Housing said there were 150 other cases where Croydon broke the six-week rule. The high number of families in bed and breakfasts for more than six weeks was exposed by a BBC investigation in October 2012 and led to criticism of the council from a government minister. Then council chief executive Jon Rouse said he was "concerned" but that insisted the authority was "behaving legally". A spokesman for Croydon Council told Inside Housing this week that the authority accepted the ombudsman's findings. "Maintaining a lawful position on the use of B&B for homeless households remains one of the council's top priorities," he said. "There have been no homeless families accommodated by the council in B&Bs for over six weeks from the end of June 2013 to date." In March the council announced it was to borrow £10 million to invest in a property fund in order to buy housing for homeless families. That was on top of £20 million borrowed from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) in January last year, which saw the council directly purchase 80 homes. It follows years of dwindling supplies of temporary accommodation amid predictions that the number of families made homeless in Croydon would exceed 1,000 by 2014/15.
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