My direct knowledge of councils' work in relation to homeless people is somewhat rusty as I have been away from local government for almost seven years. However, when I first became a councillor, I encountered a steady stream of homeless presentations to the local authority from Troon, which was the town that I represented. Unfortunately, the policies of Kyle and Carrick District Council meant that there was no suitable accommodation whatever for homeless families in Troon.
Over time, I was involved—indeed, in some respects, I was instrumental—in securing funding for a homeless hostel to provide temporary accommodation and in cutting housing stock from mainstream provision to provide temporary accommodation for people undergoing assessment and for those in the period between their acceptance as homeless and the allocation of a house. Throughout that time, however, there were always people who wanted to be housed in Troon and did not want to be shipped to Ayr, where there was a better standard of bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
The local authority engaged in work with local providers to try to bring property up to the necessary standards and to provide management rules that would provide decent accommodation for those who chose to stay in the area in which they had lived, where they expected to be housed,
My local authority was keen to eliminate the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation and moved very fast towards that. I agree that, for families with children in particular, such accommodation is not appropriate and is certainly far from ideal. That we should do everything that we can to eliminate its use is appropriate. However, what does a local authority do that does not have access to accommodation in every area in which it would wish to have it and finds itself facing not dire emergencies, but sudden surges in demand when it has more presentations that empty units to allocate temporarily? The sensible way is to proceed gradually—but clear in our objective of abolishing the use of bed-and-breakfast establishments for temporary accommodation—and to provide minimum standards for such facilities as must be used. Amendment 6 meets those objectives and brings us towards a humane way of dealing with what is undoubtedly a scourge on our society.