NEARLY £900,000 was spent on housing vulnerable families in bed and breakfast accommodation last year by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
A total of 365 families with children were put in emergency temporary housing in 2012 - with nearly £250,000 spent in just one hotel.
This is a huge increase from the 58 families housed in 2011 at a total of £70,000.
Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter criticised the council for leaving families in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit of six weeks. But the authority defended itself, saying expensive rents in the borough, lack of appropriate housing and recent changes to the benefit system has left the council with a massive burden.
Councillor Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing, said the system was ‘not fair’ on taxpayers who are forced to foot the bill and that stricter laws should be introduced to stop people unnecessarily clogging up the housing list.
He added: "Of course, there are some people who are in genuine need of temporary accommodation, and we accept a duty to them. However, we must also respect the taxpayer who has to foot the bill for it.
“The law must now be tightened to prevent large families from simply turning up at our housing office and being able to access expensive temporary accommodation in expensive parts of town that the average hard-pressed taxpayer can only dream of.”
The figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act showed that only two families were placed in B&Bs in 2009 and none in 2008.
Mr Slaughter said: "I have been told horror stories by mums with young children who have been placed into cramped accommodation alongside drug users and who have had to lock themselves in their rooms for fear of their safety."
Domestic violence, abuse and financial difficulties have been cited as reasons why families leave their homes. Homelessness charity Shelter states that many B&B guests have to share bathrooms with others and reliance on pricey takeaway food is common as cooking facilities are rare.
"This huge increase in families living in B&Bs is worrying. It’s hard to imagine losing your home, let alone the horror of squeezing your family into one room without decent facilities,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.
Westminster Council also came under fire earlier this year when it was revealed £2million was spent on B&Bs in the first nine months of 2012. They paid £12,500 a month to house a family-of-four at the four-star Copthorne Tara Hotel off Kensington High Street.