Monday, January 20, 2014
The budget to care for homeless people in East Devon is set to be slashed by more than £130,000.
But the district council says the move reflects a ‘success story’, and funds available could rise to meet demand, after conern was expressed.
Councillor Claire Wright fears benefit reforms will put more families at risk and it would be short-sighted to cut the provisions.
But her colleagues told her it actually reflects a drop in the number of people in crisis, and there is more cash available if there is a resurgence in demand.
Speaking at Wednesday’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting, Cllr Wright said: “The budget is being slashed by £134,000, but my understanding was tackling homelessness was a priority for this council – where is the money being taken from and how is it justified?”
She was told the situation was improving, but replied: “I am concerned it could get worse – to take money away is potentially quite worrying.”
Committee chairman Councillor Tim Wood said homelessness is a demand-led expenditure, and even though the budget allocation has dropped, funding can increase.
Chief executive Mark Williams described the reduction in need as a ‘success story’, while an officer offered assurances that the council will continue to support food banks and people in crisis.
Council figures show a decline in homelessness in the district in recent years, with the total falling from 305 in 2011 to 178 last year.
Savings have been made by dealing with homeless people ‘in-house’ rather than putting them up in costly private accommodation.
A council spokesman said: “There will be no service reduction to households facing homelessness.
“The savings are being achieved through a combination of bringing some services in-house, reducing costs on voids in temporary accommodation and the reallocation of staff resources.
“Also key to managing homelessness is good use of our own housing stock, working with housing association partners and increasing the supply of affordable housing – all things we have improved over a number of years.
“We expect to underspend our budget this year as homeless demand is being managed again through early intervention and prevention.”