Crawley Borough Council statistics have shown a fall on how much it spent on homelessness accommodation.
The council’s transactions over £500 in the area fell from £80,535 in May to £57,918 in June.
The figures, however, showed spending on agency staff had increased from £30,778 to £36,689 over the same period.
Council leader Peter Lamb said he was convinced the council was meeting its legal responsibilities in the areas in the cheapest way known to it.
The council could face ‘very severe penalties’ for not helping house people considered homeless as defined in the Housing Act.
Mr Lamb (Lab, Northgate) said: “The vast shortage of housing, particularly affordable housing, in the town usually means that the council has to house people temporarily in B&Bs to meet that legal requirement before helping them to find housing elsewhere.
“Ultimately the solution to all of these is to get more affordable housing built and that’s why we’re working to build 1,000 affordable homes over the next four years. Other than that the council has no legal alternative except to pay the money out.”
Mr Lamb said agency staff were hired because of ongoing ‘restructuring’ at the council following central government cuts and for seasonal work.
He said: “It wouldn’t be fair to hire workers full-time for posts which are unlikely to exist in the long-term and redundancy payments come at a huge expense to the taxpayer.”
The leader of the opposition, Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green) added: “We should always be looking to get good value for what we spend and I have always been supportive of investment in homelessness prevention, that can not only have positive outcomes for those at risk of becoming homeless, but can save more in costs further down the line.
“The figures for agency staff do look high but there can be a variety of good reasons for using agency staff such as bringing in specialist expertise from outside the organisation on a temporary basis that the council otherwise does not have.
“What I would be keen to avoid is the long-term use of agency staff for roles that the council could directly recruit for, that would result in costing the council much more than directly employing.”
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