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Suffolk and Essex councils ‘let down badly by Government’ over homelessness legislation change

PUBLISHED: 18:09 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:09 14 December 2017

Rough sleepers set up camp on Ipswich Waterfront earlier this year. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Rough sleepers set up camp on Ipswich Waterfront earlier this year. Picture: GREGG BROWN

New legislation to prevent homelessness is not financially viable, council leaders in Suffolk and Essex have warned.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The fresh rules will come into force in April 2018 and they will place more duties on local authorities to keep people off the streets.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has allocated funds to councils to help cover the costs of embedding the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

Over the next three years, Ipswich Borough Council will get £238,377; Colchester will receive £212,533; and St Edmundsbury will get £115,932.

However, councillors have said this is not enough as the new act is going to significancy increase demand on their services.

Tina Bourne, of Colchester Borough Council. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDTina Bourne, of Colchester Borough Council. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “We welcome the new Homelessness Reduction Act as it means more resources will be targeted to those most in need. However we have been let down badly by the Government as their funding support is totally inadequate, providing only half of what we believe the extra measures will cost. This will put an extra strain on other budgets as we try to make good the shortfall.”

The council is set to employ five new staff members and open a fresh temporary accommodation for homeless people in north-east Ipswich in order to cope with the surge.

Tina Bourne, portfolio holder for housing and communities at Colchester Borough Council, said the authority was taking action to prepare for the changes, such as implementing new computer systems and reviewing its temporary accommodation provision.

She added: “The additional funding does help to support the initial changes, but we expect demand on the service will increase and, therefore, that the additional resource is unlikely to be sufficient in the medium-to-long-term, with local rents increasing beyond the reach of those on benefits or a low income.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said the Homelessness Reduction Act was “the most ambitious legislation in decades that will mean people get the support they need earlier”, but he did not comment on the claim of insufficient council funding to implement the legislation.

Homelessness figures

The Government has released the latest homelessness figures for July to September this year.

In Ipswich, 80 people went to the borough council for help during this period and 51 of those were deemed statutory homeless, with almost half being single mothers with dependent children.

This was a rise from the previous quarter, when 63 people in the town sought assistance and 46 were accepted.

In Colchester, 50 applied for homelessness support and 37 were accepted.

Of those eligible for help, 11 were aged 16 to 24, while 20 were single mothers with dependent children.

This was a fall from the previous quarter, when 73 people asked for homelessness support and 54 received it.

There was an increase in homelessness in the St Edmundsbury borough, with 59 applicants and 35 classed as statutory homeless, compared to 37 and 29 from April to June.

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