Council chiefs row over homelessness

FIGHTING homelessness remains a key aim of the new administration at Ipswich's Civic Centre, deputy leader Liz Harsant insisted today.The new Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration has come under fire from the Labour opposition after proposals to increase spending on homelessness next year were deferred.

FIGHTING homelessness remains a key aim of the new administration at Ipswich's Civic Centre, deputy leader Liz Harsant insisted today.

The new Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration has come under fire from the Labour opposition after proposals to increase spending on homelessness next year were deferred.

Proposals to spend £197,000 on a bond with the Wherry Housing Association to provide accommodation for homeless people during the next financial year were deferred at a meeting of the council's executive committee in October.

Mrs Harsant said today that she still hoped the bond would be paid, but all aspects of the council's expenditure were currently under scrutiny under the budget process.

She said: "I am still fairly confident that the bond will be approved once we have been through the council's budget in full - this was only a deferal along with many other aspects of the council's expenditure."

The money would help create new housing for homeless people and should reduce substantially the amount the council has to spend on bed and breakfast accommodation.

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Last year the council spent almost £850,000 on people in bed and breakfast accommodation - and in the first three months of the current financial year the almost £120,000 was spent.

The money spent on homelessness in the borough should fall if fewer people have to be put up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation - although this does need the initial investment.

The Labour opposition attacked the decision to delay the payment of the £197,000 bond.

Deputy Labour group leader David Ellesmere said: "This is absolutely vital to tackle homelessness in the borough, and now it has been deferred.

"I hear what the administration is saying, but we all know their main priority is to cut council tax - not to look after the needs of homeless people.

"If it comes down to cutting a few pence off council tax bills or giving people decent homes to live in we know which side they'll come down on."

Do you think the council should spend more on tackling homelessness, or should keeping council tax bills down be their main priority? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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