Council’s cabinet approves £6m spending to save programme

Plans to spend up to £6m on property for use as temporary accommodation for homeless families will result in longer term cost savings for Rother District Council (RDC).

Members of the council’s ruling cabinet voted unanimously when they met on Monday to approve a plan to give Head of Housing and Community Joe Powell the authority to buy-up property for the use as temporary accommodation for homeless households – the £6million spending project will be funded by borrowing.

Mr Powell told the meeting that RDC was funding the cost of having 81 households in temporary accommodation and a further nine households being funded by the Rough Sleeping Initiative. In his report to the meeting Mr Powell said: “Grant funding has been provided by Government to contribute to these additional costs; however, the amount provided is not forecast to meet the costs to the Council. As a result, a financial deficit to the Council of £25,500 is forecast by yearend 2020/21 and there is presently no indication of whether further funds will be made available or when the ‘Everyone in’ instruction might end. The budget for 2020/21 is £1.1million offset by £508,000 of income largely recovered through housing benefit. The net cost therefore is budgeted to be £592,000.”

…the policy would help keep people in their own community…

Mr Powell told cabinet members the proposal before them would save the council £160,000 a year and should be seen as an, “…invest to save proposal”.

He explained that RDC has successfully acquired five three-bedroom properties in Bexhill that are accommodating homeless families with children. In addition, the council has had offers accepted on a block of accommodation made up of a three-bedroom house and six one-bedroom flats as well as another two-bedroom flat in Rye. He aid that based on the three-bedroomed houses the council owns already, there is a cost to the Council of £25 per night on average (£9,000 per year) as opposed to an average of £36 per night (£13,000 per year) for accommodating the same size household through private providers.

Councillor Kathryn Field said she thought the idea to buy more property was “excellent” but she wanted assuraces that efforts would be made to by environmentally efficient properties.

Councillor Paul Courtel said his Bexhill Central ward saw the highest level of rough sleeping in the district and he welcomed the, “much needed investment”, describing it as a, “win, win, win,” situation for the council. He was also pleased that the policy would help keep people in their own community where they had existing support networks available, rather than have to send them out of the district to find accommodation for them.

Councillor Paul Osborne saw it as a, “sensible way forward”.

Councillors shared the view that property was a safe investment and while the implementation of the plan would bring immediate savings longer term is the numbers of homeless fell then the council could sell the properties and recoup their investment and more.

The proposal, which Mr Powell said was intended as part of a package of temporary accommodation solutions, was passed unanimously by cabinet members.

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