A pastor has said that the council’s “gatekeeping” of emergency accommodation during cold weather “will cost lives”.

Andrew Ramage, pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in Brighton, said that Brighton and Hove City Council’s severe weather shelter - made available for rough sleepers when temperatures plummet - should be open for all, but that the service can only be accessed by those referred into the shelter.

He said that the approach could have “dangerous and possibly fatal consequences”.

Pastor Ramage said: “Sadly, as shown by the council’s own website have to be referred into the shelter by a member of the street outreach team.

“It is supposed to be an open-access shelter to save lives, yet only the few outreach workers can provide access.

“It is again gatekeeping services but, on this occasion, it will cost lives.”

The Argus: Pastor Ramage said the 'gate-keeping' of the service 'will cost lives'Pastor Ramage said the 'gate-keeping' of the service 'will cost lives' (Image: free)

The council is currently accommodating 49 people through the service as the city and the country is hit by sub-zero temperatures.

People at the shelter are provided with a meal, hot drinks and snacks, according to the council’s website.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “Our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) opens when the temperature is predicted to feel like 0C or there’s an amber weather warning. This is one of the most generous triggers for opening such services in the country.

“It has been open through the last week and will remain open through the current cold swap.

“It is important that anyone sleeping rough is offered help as soon as possible and that the assistance offered meets their needs, so accommodation for people on the streets is provided through referrals from organisations who understand what’s available and what support is needed.

“Reporting where people are through Streetlink is the best way of making sure that people get the support they need.

“This route helps us support people still sleeping on the streets into emergency accommodation.”