A SIX-MONTH hotel stay costing more than £5,000 has been funded by a council struggling to cope with homelessness.

In the midst of a growing housing crisis, cash-strapped councils across the region are paying thousands of pounds to well-known hotel chains including Travelodge and Premier Inn to provide emergency accommodation, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Startling figures uncovered through a Freedom of Information request reflect a desperate and growing need for emergency accommodation, experts say.

The region’s local authorities have spent at least £39,748 on hotel chains since 2012, with North Yorkshire County Council spending £5,220 on a 174 night stay at one hotel.

The lengthy booking at the White Rose Hotel contributed to a £6,006 total hotel bill for the authority while Durham Council spent £29,202 - £23,408 of which was paid to Travelodge.

In Darlington, 56 nights were booked with Premier Inn and Travelodge at a cost of £4,540.

Hotels are used rarely and only ever as a last resort in emergency cases, according to statements from the authorities concerned.

Darlington council leader Bill Dixon said it was an unavoidable situation expected to worsen with further government cuts.

He said: “We are witnessing a rise in homelessness and councils are being stopped from building houses while housing associations are being attacked.

“We have no alternative – it is this or we put families on the street, which is totally unacceptable.

“If anyone thinks these hotels are luxurious, they should try being homeless – whatever hotel you’re in, it’s not a family home.

“It is going to get worse with further cuts and it’s part of a downward spiral we haven’t seen the likes of since the 1980s.”

Experts from homeless charity Shelter said the figures reflect a growing shortage of emergency accommodation.

Policy officer Kevin Garvey said: “Councils are having to resort to using hotels and bed and breakfasts as they do not have enough self-contained temporary accommodation.

“There’s no incentive for councils to use hotels as they’re very expensive but we’re seeing more people placed there.

“Authorities are desperately struggling to find the right level of affordable accommodation.

“Welfare reform is key in this, whether it’s changes to benefits or bedroom tax, but it’s more about the availability of temporary accommodation and that comes back to housing shortages.”

He said prolonged stays in temporary accommodation can have a detrimental effect, particularly on children.

He added: “Sometimes using hotels is unavoidable but what is concerning is people staying there for long periods of time, something that impacts on mental health.

“Living in unsuitable, unstable accommodation without knowing where you’ll be the next day can have a real impact on individuals and families, especially school children.”

Authorities in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Hartlepool do not use hotels to house the homeless.