Dorset Council is accused of using Weymouth as a 'dumping ground' for homeless people and those with social problems.

Dozens of the county's homeless people have been placed in three local hotels during the pandemic - and Honorary Alderman of Weymouth Dr Alan Chedzoy believes politics are behind the decision.

As reported, concerns about anti-social behaviour in areas such as the Park District have been linked to some of the homeless people temporarily rehoused in the area.

Most have been placed in the Mon Ami, Richmoor and Riviera Hotels, although Dorset Council said other B&Bs around the town and in other areas have also been used.

Dr Chedzoy said: "We all wish to see an end to homelessness, and many homeless people are eager to accept the new start rehousing brings. But there will always be an anti-social minority among them, some with mental or addiction problems, who are unwilling or unable to abide by the constraints demanded in living together.

"To concentrate them in one place makes (Weymouth) a dumping ground. Presumably no such accommodation was available elsewhere. Really? Not a single bed available in Dorchester, or Blandford or Sherborne?"

Local councillors have also said the decision is "a mistake that should never be allowed to happen again," following reports of increased drug dealing, violence, street-drinking and lewd behaviour in the Park District.

Dr Chedzoy added: "The truth is that, following the creation of the new Dorset local authority, Weymouth and Portland will always be used as a dumping ground for social problems. This is because majorities in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups from the rural areas ensure they will not accept ‘problem people’."

Defending the decision, the council said it contacted 70 hotels in the county, but that most declined to accept homeless people at short notice after the Government ordered councils to get people off the streets at the start of lockdown.

The council did not confirm how many of the 70 hotels it contacted were in Weymouth.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Safety, said: “There are misconceptions about arrangements in place to accommodate homeless people in Dorset and I’m pleased to have this opportunity to set the record straight.

“Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Dorset Council was already providing B&B accommodation for 71 homeless households. Early on in the Covid-19 outbreak, central government launched the ‘Everyone In’ initiative which required local authorities to get all rough sleepers in off the streets within literally a matter of days in order to protect them and others from risk of spreading the virus. The government recommended that self-contained accommodation be used such as hotels for this because each individual can avoid sharing facilities and risk of contamination.

“This was an emergency situation requiring urgent action. Dorset Council contacted numerous hotels across the county in order to block book available accommodation. Almost all declined to work with us as they were either shielding themselves or family or had furloughed their staff. Only three hotels in Weymouth were able to assist at such short notice. In addition to the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, increasing numbers of people contacted Dorset Council’s Housing service during lockdown because they found themselves homeless as a result of relationship breakdowns, or because they could no longer sofa surf, or for other understandable reasons resulting from the challenging circumstances. The Housing Service therefore had to find emergency accommodation for well over twice as many people as usual. And it’s fair to say that there isn’t a ready supply of suitable accommodation in Dorset, especially at such short notice, and, with the closure of the housing market to private renters, the challenge was even greater.

“At the peak of demand, 35 people were accommodated in two Weymouth seafront hotels. Currently 29 homeless people are living there and we are working hard to find them suitable alternative accommodation. However, it should be noted that there are well over 100 people accommodated elsewhere in a number of other hotels and B&Bs, some of which are not in Weymouth. Wherever possible we try to meet people's support needs and find them accommodation where they are used to residing. But the fact is that most of the people currently in temporary accommodation have a local connection to Weymouth and Portland and have been living in the community for a number of years.

“We are currently doing everything we can to identify and establish suitable alternative accommodation for homeless people across the Dorset Council area, including setting up some new hostels. Working with our homeless charity partners, drug & alcohol and mental health support services, we are ensuring strong support is in place for people we’re accommodating, and there are some positive signs of progress with a number of individuals securing more settled accommodation and employment.

"I’d like to thank Dorset Police who have been working closely with us to tackle anti-social behaviour issues and crime in areas of Weymouth, and thank you to residents for reporting this. Addressing the problem of homelessness is a significant challenge, but it is an absolute priority for Dorset Council.”