The cost to taxpayers of providing temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast, for the district’s homeless has totalled more than £3.5 million in the last four years – and experts warn that welfare cuts will make the bill rise still higher.

Bradford Council is treating the problem so seriously that three proposals to deal with the issue are being put in front of its powerful executive next month and an extra £500,000 has been put in this year’s budget to help pay for it.

A significant part of the rising costs has been put down to the Council increasingly having to pay for people to be temporarily placed at B&B hotels. That cost leapt to £423,632 in the last financial year, 17 times greater than the 2009-10 figure of £24,517.

Councillor Val Slater, the executive member for housing, blamed the hike on the district being 40 units short on temporary housing. And she pointed out that the numbers of homeless people using the Open Move service, which is delivered by the district’s largest social housing provider Incommunities, has soared from 4,000 in 2009-10 to 17,000 in 2011-12. The cost of providing temporary accommodation has also more than doubled from £416,101 in 2009-10 to £1,025,278 last year.

Coun Slater said: “That rise is basically a consequence of the first part of the welfare reforms when people up to 35 received a much reduced housing benefit and a lot of single people were forced to move from accommodation.

“They went to Open Move where they try to get them into support accommodation as a first stage to try to help people move on. We do know compared with the rest of the sub region we are 40 units of temporary accommodation short so had to use more B&Bs than we had done in previous years and that is an issue we are looking at. And it is going to get worse as welfare reforms kick in particularly around bedroom tax and Universal Credit. The fact that Universal Credit gets paid directly to clients and not to landlords really concerns me.

“If people are not really good at budgeting or have other demands and get into rent arrears that puts their housing at risk. We will try to work as hard as we can to stop people being made homeless in the first place, but it is inevitable the figures will rise which is one of the reasons we are bringing in three papers to the Executive in June.”

Coun Glen Miller, the Council’s Conservative group leader, said: “It is a lot of money, but I don’t know the answer.Labour set the budget.”

On the subject of Universal Credit paid direct to people, he said: “Part and parcel of this is to allow people to make decisions in life. If they don’t agree paying rent is their priority they will be made homeless and can’t blame Universal Credit.”

Coun Jeanette Sunderland, Liberal Democrat group leader on Bradford Council, said: “There’s pressure on in Bradford with increasing numbers of people needing help. The recession is clearly having an impact too. The Council could have used the £2.7 million it gets for its New Homes Bonus to bring the thousands of empty properties into use that we have in the district. Instead that money has been spent on Labour’s pet projects.”