Homelessness on the increase

IPSWICH'S homeless will come under the spotlight today as council bosses rubber stamp plans to reduce numbers of people in bed and breakfasts. The topic will come under discussion at tonight's executive committee meeting of Ipswich borough Council.

IPSWICH'S homeless will come under the spotlight today as council bosses rubber stamp plans to reduce numbers of people in bed and breakfasts.

The topic will come under discussion at tonight's executive committee meeting of Ipswich borough Council.

On the meeting's agenda is Homelessness Strategy 2003-2008 and Implementation Action Plan 2004-2005.

Portfolio holder councillor Elizabeth Harsant said the meeting would approve the strategy agreed by council chiefs.


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She said: "What we are trying to achieve is preventing homelessness by providing housing advice, mediation, a rent deposit scheme, and any sort of support that will keep people in their homes."

Mrs Harsant said the council had to abide by government targets to reduce the numbers of people in bed and breakfast accommodation, currently costing the council nearly £850,000 a year (gross), and the action plan offered alternatives to the temporary accommodation traditionally used by councils.

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She said partnerships with housing associations, and new accommodation at the council's West Villa homeless unit, in Woodbridge Road, would help reduce the number of people and the bill for bed and breakfast.

She said: "We are spending to save, last year we spent £844,512 on individuals in bed and breakfast accommodation.

"The first quarter of this year. 2004-2005, there were 240 presentations for homelessness, 82 were accepted costing £117,6119 (gross) on bed and breakfast accommodation."

"The pressure on temporary accommodation remains, over the last two years there has been a 25 per cent increase in homelessness presentations.

"The strategy will minimise expenditure and in particular spiralling bed and breakfast costs and enable the council to meet government objectives."

In a further move Mrs Harsant said the council is likely to spend more than double on property maintenance in housing accommodation property.

She said: "We were paying about £93,000 a year. This year we will increase our bond with Wherry Housing Association to £197,000. We have had to budget for it.

"I am afraid to say the problem of homelessness is increasing and our expenditure on it will increase significantly this year."

The homelessness strategy has been criticised by Labour councillor Peter Gardiner, who has condemned the plan.

He said: "Allotment rents for those on low incomes have been raised by over 100 per cent and pensioners' bus fares look set to rise - it is quite clear that the Tories and Liberals are deliberately targeting their cuts at the most vulnerable members of society."

Mrs Harsant refuted the allegations saying they plans will reduce the number of people in bed and breakfasts.

She added: "Cuts will have to be made across the council in our budget review but hopefully homeless provision will not suffer."

Is the council doing the right thing? Have you ever been homeless? What should the council be doing? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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