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Debate over "cut" to Brighton and Hove council homelessness fund
A war of words has broken out over an apparent cut to a homelessness budget.
Despite a raft of welfare changes by the Government and more people living on the streets, Brighton and Hove City Council is proposing to reduce its “preventing homelessness” spending by £19,000 in 2013/14.
The Green administration rejected claims it would impact on the service, adding it was actually increasing the total sum spent on tackling the issue by £1million.
But opposition councillors hit back, adding the extra money is only temporarily there to cover Government changes to council tax support and housing benefit.
Labour politicians have now announced they will look to reinstate the money, as well as adding a further £150,000 to the temporary accommodation fund, when the budget is finally decided in a crunch town hall meeting on Thursday.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “We’re not actually cutting the homelessness budget, we’re increasing it by £1million.
“Every year we have an inflationary increase which would be about 2% – that is the £19,000.
“This year we’re not |doing that which is why |it’s showing as a saving.
“The £1million is coming from savings elsewhere as we recognise the huge pressure on that service.
“We have had a massive growth on that so that’s why we’re putting money into it.”
But Conservative councillor Mary Mears said: “A cut is a cut.”
Town hall papers say the £1million extra funding will cover “risks of increased numbers of acceptances and rising prices of accommodation”.
It is thought the majority of this will cover “bad debt” – missed rent payments written off by the local authority.
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “The council is bracing themselves for a big rise in homeless cases due to the Government’s welfare changes and we fully support measures to reduce homelessness in the city as far as possible.
“We will be moving an amendment to the Green budget to replace the funding for homelessness and temporary accommodation that’s currently earmarked for cuts.”
In the last 12 months, charities say seven people have died on the city’s streets.
The last official rough sleeper count in October was 43 – the highest for many years.
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