A CRACKDOWN to reduce council rent arrears by threatening eviction has failed, Fareham Borough Council admitted today.

Housing chiefs say that debts of £150,000 owed the council had not been reduced by the action, which has left seven households on the streets since April.

The borough's rules mean that even if debts are paid the day after eviction an automatic one-year ban on being re-housed could leave families homeless for well over 12 months.

Chief housing officer David Blackburn said there had been no appreciable reduction in the arrears, which last month stood at £153,000.

But he said the tough stance on unpaid rent was necessary and tenants were given plenty of opportunity to sort out their financial problems.

"People need to be aware that they can lose their homes," he said.

"We have got procedures here to help people get advice from the Citizens' Advice Bureau, but they really need to do it at an early stage."

He said once a tenant was evicted he was considered intentionally homeless and the council had no duty to help.

Even after former tenants reached the top of the housing waiting list, those who repaid the money would be forced to wait another year and those who had not cleared the debt would have to wait two years for rehousing.

He defended the council's continuing policy, although he said he had no idea what would happen to an evicted family.

Councillor Connie Hockley, chairman of the housing sub-committee that decides rent arrears cases, said the policy was to benefit law-abiding tenants.

She added: "In some cases eviction could have been avoided if tenants had accepted advice and completed housing benefit forms, provided income and identity proofs on time and sought help in managing their finances at an earlier stage."

Shelter, the national charity for the homeless, condemned the council policy which, it says, could lead to hardship for innocent parties such as children.

A spokesman said: "It is very important that people are integrated into society as quickly as possible so they can have a suitable family life.

"It is very disruptive for children in terms of their schooling and education and people can fall into arrears for any number of reasons."