Council Leader backs calls for Government to prioritise homeless prevention
Published: 16 November 2023
Council leaders in Exeter have added their support to a letter calling on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to act over the unprecedented pressure on temporary accommodation services around the country.
Council Leader Phil Bialyk and Lead Councillor for Homeless Prevention Martin Pearce joined councillors from around the country in calling on the Chancellor to provide urgent additional resources to prevent homelessness this winter.
The letter said an unprecedented number of people are turning to councils as the last option for support when they face homelessness.
It said: “As councils, we are proud of the help we give to people when they need it, but our situation is becoming untenable. We have had no option but to rapidly escalate our use of temporary accommodation, which is threatening to overwhelm our budgets.
“The level of concern was demonstrated when 158 councils attended a 31 October summit on the issue, organised by the District Councils’ Network (DCN) and Eastbourne Borough Council.
“The scale of the problem was also shown by a recent DCN survey in which 96% of our member councils reported an increase in use of temporary accommodation – four-fifths of them describing this as ‘significant’.
“The ensuing increase in costs is a critical risk to the financial sustainability of many local authorities and we urge you to act swiftly to ensure we can continue our vital work. The pressure is particularly acute for district councils because housing costs constitute a far bigger proportion of our overall expenditure.”
The Chancellor was told that without urgent intervention, the existence of a safety net is under threat.
It added: “The supply of permanent, affordable housing has fallen in many places while the impact of the rising cost of living is making housing too costly for many people. This impacts on the health and wellbeing of households affected.”
The letter urgently calls on the Government to:
- Raise Local Housing Allowance rates to a level that will cover at least 30% of local market rent and commit to annual uprating
- Provide £100m additional funding for Discretionary Housing Payments in 2023-24 and an additional £200m in 2024-25.
- Provide a £150m top-up to the Homelessness Prevention Grant for 2024-25
- Review the cap for housing benefit subsidy rate for local authority homelessness placements
- Develop policy to stimulate retention and supply in the privately rented sector
- Give councils the long-term funding, flexibility and certainty needed to increase the supply of social housing
Cllr Bialyk said: “Our Housing team in Exeter does a fantastic job in collaboration with our partners to help prevent homelessness in the city and to support those who do find themselves without a permanent roof over their heads.
“But these services are being stretched all over the country, and the Government needs to do much more to provide local councils with the resources they need to tackle the problem and prevent more families and individuals facing the prospect of becoming homeless.
“Homelessness is something that can happen to anyone, but it is preventable. We need to have proper funding and policies in place to ensure we can adequately address this growing issue.”