Tue, 24 Oct 2017
A SENIOR West Berkshire councillor has criticised the level of funding the authority has been allocated by the Conservative Government for homelessness prevention.
The cash-strapped Tory-led local authority has been allocated just £38,000 for 2018/19 from a national pot of £72m to help prevent homelessness, according to the council’s executive member for housing planning and leisure, Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley).
The council is currently missing its target on preventing those at risk of homelessness, with only 64 per cent of those seeking help from West Berkshire Council being saved from losing their home.
And speaking at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny management commission on Tuesday evening, Mrs Cole told members that the local authority had not been allocated enough funding from a Government grant for it to effectively prevent residents in need from becoming homeless in the future.
She said: “The amount of money we are being allocated doesn’t meet the amount of resources that we feel we need.
“We will do what we can with the funding that we have been allocated, which is around £38,000, which is not a lot.
“We have not had the resources to do prevention and it’s quite a new burden on us.”
The council has set a homelessness prevention target of 75 per cent which, according to recent figures, it is expected to miss this year.
However, more responsibility will soon be placed on local authorities to prevent homelessness when the Government’s new Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force next April.
Under the new legislation, local authorities will have a duty to help all eligible homeless applicants to secure accommodation for a period of at least six months, regardless of whether they are ‘intentionally homeless’ or in priority need.
Mrs Cole added that once she had been briefed further, she would be writing to local MPs Richard Benyon (Newbury), John Redwood (Wokingham) and Alok Sharma (Reading West) in an effort to secure a better grant settlement.
“I am not holding my breath,” she added.
Newbury MP Richard Benyon said: “I supported the Homelessness Reduction Act and one of its provisions was that councils were going to receive funds for costs to implement the act, so I will do everything I can to hold the Government to account.”
Failing to achieve the required level of preventing or alleviating homelessness will have an impact on council expenditure as families are often housed in bed and breakfast accommodation as a temporary, often expensive, solution.
According to Government figures released in June, a total of 13 households were being put up by the council in B&Bs or hostels, as of March 31, 2017.
However, Mrs Cole told members this was another issue the council was looking to address.
She said: “We are trying to avoid bed and breakfasts because we are purchasing properties for temporary accommodation.
“We feel by going down the route of searching for properties to either purchase or lease for temporary accommodation then it will reduce the need for B&B accommodation which is a) expensive, and b) not really a good solution for those families.”