THE number of rough sleepers on the streets of Brighton and Hove has halved, according to the latest figures.

An unofficial count in May found 43 people sleeping on the streets, compared with 91 in May last year.

The figure compares with 66 in March which was up on the 54 people found to be sleeping rough in March last year.

Brighton and Hove City Council said: “Every two months a street count is carried out in the city to capture a ‘single night snapshot’ of the number of people who are sleeping rough in the local area.

“The street count is always carried out at night to make sure those being included are sleeping out.

“The counts are used to increase understanding of the situation in the city and to help direct support where it’s most needed.

“The regular counts are separate to the official annual count that is required by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government each autumn.”

Homelessness campaigner Jim Deans was sceptical about the figures.

Mr Deans runs Sussex Homeless Support, which has two buses operating as night shelters.

He said: “We have had over 25 different faces through the buses in the last month, with a permanent 14 right now. Eight have been women – and we have three women currently.

“The council’s suggestion that more than half all rough sleepers in Brighton have spent a night on our buses is madness.”

The official rough sleeper count generated controversy last year after a change in the method resulted in a lower than expected number.

The official 2018 count found 64 people sleeping rough, compared with an estimate of 178 the year before.

Last year outreach workers and volunteers physically counted the number of people bedded down in the city after midnight on Wednesday 21 November.

The year before an estimate was compiled using information from a number of organisations with efforts made to ensure that any double counting was eliminated.

A rough sleeper, according the government’s definition, is someone sleeping, bedded down or about to bed down in the open air.

This can include someone on the street, in a tent, doorway, park, bus shelter or encampment.

It also includes someone in a building or other place not designed for habitation such as a stairwell, shed, car park or makeshift shelter known as a “bash”.

The official definition does not include someone sleeping in a vehicle.