Charges for storing the belongings of homeless, unemployed residents have been scrapped by Richmond Council.

Councils have a statutory duty to protect the personal property of homeless applicants when it is at risk of damage or loss and the applicant is unable to protect or deal with it themselves.

In November 2017, Richmond Council introduced a new charging system for residents who found themselves homeless, in temporary accommodation and needing somewhere to store their belongings. The new system was a full cost recovery model. Even though households’ weekly payments might start at £5 a week, there was no time limit for repayments, meaning the most vulnerable could remain indebted for months if not years.

The new Administration committed to scrap these charges for those residents who were the most vulnerable. At a recent Cabinet meeting, it was agreed that homeless households requiring storage facilities, who are unemployed and rely totally on benefits will no longer be required to pay for the storage service.

For working households not wholly reliant on welfare benefits, it is proposed that applicants who are in employment, will continue to pay the full charge for storage against an agreed interest free repayment plan based on their individual financial circumstances.

Cllr Liz Jaeger, Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “It is not right to try to balance the Council’s books by imposing more charges on the most vulnerable in our community. This policy, to charge the homeless the full costs of storing their belongings was particularly mean-spirited. I am very pleased that we have decided to stop charging those who simply can’t afford to pay.”