A PRIVATE company set up by the council has spent £13m in two years buying 32 properties to house the homeless.

In October 2015 Downshire Homes Ltd was set up by Bracknell Forest Council (BFC).

With council chief executive Timothy Wheadon and adult services executive Dale Birch on the board of directors, the company went about buying houses across the town using money loaned from the council.

So far 32 properties have been bought and equipped to house homeless families, in roads such as Jackson Close, Waterman Road and Westcombe Close.

"The concept is quite simple," explained Cllr Birch.

"We needed to provide for homeless people and we couldn't keep putting people up in bed and breakfasts miles away. So we got our act together and realised if we founded a company that would go out into the community and buy houses, we could let homeless people live in them.

"It takes pressure off us as a council and off the families who would otherwise be in B&Bs."

Cllr Birch went on to say the transferral of BFC's housing stock to Bracknell Forest Homes in 2008 made building houses directly financially unviable for the council.

"The more financially sensible way for the council to provide a homeless service is to use its borrowing power to allow Downshire Homes as a separate company to purchase the homes," he continued.

"Then the company pays back the council out of the rents it secures. The council is able to make a big saving. Last year the council was able to save about £0.5m.

"We go in and assess the house, do a bit of tidying up and then we allocate them. They don't stay vacant for long."

Cllr Birch suggested the company might expand its purchasing scope in the near future.

"Downshire Homes may be looking to expand into the affordable homes market in the coming years," he concluded.