THERE could be an increase in the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of West Berkshire after the district council approved a reduction in the number of beds available to the homeless.
The number of units for those living homeless will be reduced from 108 to 103 in a move that will save the local authority almost £350,000.
It had previously been feared the number of units may have to be cut to 63 after West Berkshire Council cut its funding for the homeless from £849,000 to £500,000.
However, confirming new contracts for the service had been awarded to Two Saints and A2 Dominion, the council’s portfolio holder for planning and housing, Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley), said the housing team had done an “incredible” job in securing the provision for £349,000 less.
The cuts come just weeks after calls were made for the community to pull together to end homelessness in the area.
However, a report to councillors last week admitted the cuts could result in an increase in street homelessness in West Berkshire.
The council’s executive committee met last Thursday to discuss the new contracts, which will see £160,000 paid per year to A2 Dominion to provide accommodation for 27 young people.
Another £340,000 will be paid to existing provider Two Saints to provide accommodation for 76 adults.
Both contracts will be for five years with the option for a three-year extension.
Speaking at the meeting, leader of the opposition Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said he was glad the number of units would not be cut by as much as first thought, but said the reduction in funding was still “worrying”.
He added: “We have seen in the local press recently in regards to the focus on homelessness and how communities are trying to rally around.
“To see any reduction in the council’s ability to help homeless people and lead to more homeless people living on the streets is a worrying step forward.
“It shows how these cuts have been hard-hitting.”
Mrs Cole answered: “I think it is absolutely excellent and laudable that the local community and businesses are stepping up to the plate.
“I am pleased to say that on Friday, March 3, we are having a round-table discussion with all the community and voluntary sectors to discuss the issue of homelessness. We are mindful of what our responsibilities are, but grateful for the help of the community.”
It is not understood exactly how the service will provide 95 per cent of the accommodation units at just 60 per cent of the cost.
However, the council said quality would be “maintained”.
Mrs Cole told the Newbury Weekly News: “We always strive to achieve best value for money and quality.
“We have a rigorous tendering process that ensures we achieve this.
“Our providers understand our need to deliver services as cost effectively as possible and, like us, they are committed to reducing homelessness and protecting vulnerable people.
“Therefore, they have worked with us to provide as much as possible within the budget we have.”