Four “vulnerable” families moved almost 90 miles to stay into a budget hotel in Doncaster caused so many problems it caused a spike in demand for help from South Yorkshire Police, it has emerged.
Senior officers realised there was a problem after numbers of incidents around the town’s Travelodge hotel spiralled – a highly unusual situation – and investigations revealed Peterborough City Council had begun using it to accommodate families with problems because of local accommodation shortages.
The impact on policing in Doncaster was so great that senior officers intervened and those involved in the troubles have been moved back to Peterborough.
It is unclear how many individuals were involved but Peterborough City Council has now accepted it should have worked more closely with Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, described the situation as “scandalous”.
Details of the problem were revealed by Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, speaking at a meeting of the Public Accountability Board hosted by Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings.
He said: “We have had demand at Doncaster from Travelodge that is unusual.
“Vulnerable people are being sent. This is a policy approach.
“Before, that would have been masked. We have had a very early opportunity to seek an early solution.
“Peterborough Council were telling people they had picked a Travelodge in South Yorkshire. There was no communication with us.
“We raised it with the local authority but they had not been approached by Peterborough.
“It is not fair to the vulnerable person, who is given a train ticket and pointed north.
“It is not fair on staff in the Travelodge. It is not fair on other residents. It is not fair on our staff,” he said.
The situation has now been addressed “directly” with Peterborough City Council by police and the situation has also been raised with the Government.
Dr Billings told Mr Roberts: “It is scandalous what you have described. I assume other councils are doing similar things?”
Mr Roberts said: “It is something we are now aware of. It is a stunt which is out there.”
Police have faced similar problems previously in South Yorkshire with private children’s homes, which often house youngsters from outside the area.
However, when problems occur police have frequently been called in to try to resolve issues.
In some cases the root of the problem has been blamed on homes being badly run and the force has now taken steps to try to ensure that management in such businesses are more effective in dealing with their own problems rather than allowing problems to emerge and then fall back on police to resolve issues.
Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for housing, Coun Peter Hiller, said: “I agree we could have worked closer with the council in Doncaster while supporting these four families, who are now back in Peterborough.
“At the time following assessment with the families – we did not anticipate any support from authorities in Doncaster was needed. If we had concerns we would have raised them.
“Shortages in emergency accommodation, homelessness and housing are national problems affecting all local authorities.
“We want to avoid situations like this in future and want a long term solution. We have raised these issues nationally, along with many other councils and the Local Government Association and we are working hard to increase the supply of both temporary and permanent housing in Peterborough.”