Birmingham housing chiefs have vowed to phase out the use of bed and breakfasts for homeless families after discovering squalid conditions during a series of inspections.
The investigations were called by Birmingham City Council's housing watchdog committee following complaints about the poor quality of some Hagley Road rooms and facilities used to house some of the city’s most vulnerable people, including children.
Committee chairwoman Coun Emily Cox described the findings as ‘not good enough’ but was pleased that families are already being moved out and that the worst hotel was no longer being used.
City bosses have refused to publicly name the bed and breakfasts inspected, but officials stated that they included hotels on Hagley Road.
A series of unannounced inspections during October and November revealed list of problems including cookers not working, no heating for one room, no hot water for another, televisions out of order, poor or no kitchen facilities, damp and smells, concerns about a rat, reports of flea bites and general shoddy state of repair.
Orders were also given to carry out minor electrical repairs and maintenance.
Birmingham City Council currently has about 150 individuals and families in bed and breakfast accommodation, down from a peak of 330 families three months ago.
Many are mothers and children fleeing domestic abuse or simply those who have suffered a domestic emergency such as flood or collapse.
Coun Cox (Lib Dem, Moseley and Kings Heath) said that she was still concerned that not all families had access to kitchen facilities and had to rely on expensive take aways.
She said: “But it really concerns me when I see reports of rats and fleas. It is not acceptable to see rooms rife with damp.”
Coun Cox said that police had also raised concerns over drug dealers targeting the residents, and said there had been a high number of call outs to certain hotels.
“This is just no good enough,” she added. “But I am pleased that steps have been taken and we discontinued use of one particular hotel.”
Labour housing spokesman Coun John Cotton (Shard End) added: “It worries me that taxpayers money was being spent on these poor facilities and I am relieved that we are cutting the bill.”
Assistant director Helen Marsen agreed it made sound financial sense, as well as being good for the families concerned, to keep bed and breakfast stays to a minimum.
She said that the problems related to a small number of rooms. But added: “We want to stop using them completely, but we may need them as a contingency or emergency - if we need somewhere fast to put someone up in the middle of the night.”
The committee praised the housing department’s senior managers who carried out the inspections and ordered the action themselves.
City housing chief Coun Lines (Cons, Bartley Green) said: “Since being made aware of the allegations, housing officers have been in to look around and a few people have been moved. I am determined that we will not have people living in sub-standard accommodation.”
He pointed out that the council has commissioned a large number of private sector landlords to provide self-contained houses and flats for the homeless and phase out the use of B&Bs.