Ministers have clashed with the Travelodge hotel group after it emerged it gave homeless families and key worker guests just two hours to leave after shutting about 360 of its UK hotels at short notice to comply with coronavirus measures.
The chain, which is used by many councils to house homeless people, slipped letters under guests’ doors on Tuesday asking them to leave as soon as possible to allow it to temporarily close the hotels ‘‘until further notice” following the UK government’s extended coronavirus physical distancing guidelines issued on Monday night.
This triggered widespread chaos, with reports on social media of guests suddenly left with nowhere to live, receiving no advice on where they could move to, and local authority housing officers scrambling to find alternative accommodation for the homeless families who had been put up in the hotels.
Although the government’s guidance said hotels, hostels and B&Bs should close as part of measures introduced to tackle the spread of coronavirus, it exempted those accommodating homeless people or key workers such as NHS and care workers, which it said should remain open.
The homelessness minister, Luke Hall, wrote to hotel chains on Wednesday morning warning them as “a matter of urgency” not to close if it was hosting exempted residents.
His letter said: “If you have closed services for homeless people today as a result of the measures announced this week, I would be very grateful if you could reverse these decisions as soon as possible.’’
However, Travelodge appeared to be pressing ahead with closures, saying it would keep open hotels for key workers and homeless residents only in selected locations, and would try to ensure anyone in exempt categories forced to leave would be offered a room at another of its hotels.
A spokesperson said: “Travelodge has been obliged to commence the temporary closure of its hotels in line with the instructions from the government on 24 March 2020. We do expect to remain open in selected critical locations across the country to support accommodation for emergency workers and other groups.
“We are reviewing daily which hotels are best positioned to support the needs that arise with the government while ensuring we comply with the new restrictions in place to protect the public.”Read More……