Council makes plea to Welsh Government for more homelessness support
Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter
A council looking to move away from putting homeless residents in hotels and Airbnb’s has made a plea to the Welsh Government for more funding.
Flintshire Council’s housing scrutiny committee discussed a projected £2.4m overspend in the homelessness service as the authority grapples to make savings ahead of next year’s budget.
Housing and prevention service manager Martin Cooil said hotels, holiday lets, caravans and Airbnb’s were being used due to an increase in people coming into the system, with Welsh Government law meaning more people are eligible to be accommodated by the council.
A lack of accommodation for people to move to suitable for demographics such as single people under the age of 55, and a lack of options in the private sector is putting pressure on council finances.
It is currently using 13 hotels, four of which are out of county to accommodate people at an overall cost of £1.5m.
In the last six months the number of people needing accommodation has grown from 103 in March to 143 currently.
“We really need to move away from this type of accommodation”, Mr Cooil said.
“It is costly and it is not solving homelessness, it’s solving rooflessness.”
In response to a question from Hope Cllr Gladys Healey (Lab), Mr Cooil said there are currently four rough sleepers in the county, all of whom had been offered support but declined it.
Chairing the meeting, Hawarden Aston Cllr Helen Brown (Ind), said with extra legislation from the Welsh Government extra funding was needed, backed by Connah’s Quay Central Cllr Bernie Attridge (Ind).
He questioned the money being spent on reducing the 30mph default speed limit to 20mph when people are in desperate need of accommodation.
Cllr Attridge said: “We’ve got a crisis on our hands, something that is only going to get worse over the next 12 months, from personal experience of people who are contacting me on a daily basis either upset that they’ve been put in a hotel out of town or are stuck on someone’s sofa.
“A projected £2.4m overspend has got to be worrying to every single council member as well as our officers who are trying their best.
“We need more money. We’re getting told local government is being squeezed again this financial year, we’re getting prepared for that already so there doesn’t seem to be any money knocking about.
“I’ll make the point – how many homeless people could we help with money that we’re spending on 20mph? Welsh Government have got choices, national government have got choices – they cannot rely on the taxpayer of Flintshire to pay extra council tax.”
In response, cabinet member for housing Shotton West Cllr Sean Bibby assured councillors regular meetings with the Welsh Government are taking place.
“There is a mismatch between Welsh Government’s aspiration and the resources that we are being provided as a local authority to deal with the issue”, Cllr Bibby said.
“These figures are very concerning and what’s concerning me even more coming down the line is interest rates, individuals struggling to pay their mortgages. That’s going to put even more pressure on the service.”
He added: “We’ve made it very clear to Welsh Government that if they wish us to take this approach it needs to have the financial resources to enable us to deliver that.
“There are priorities and maybe there’s a mismatch with what Welsh Government is doing with some elements of its money, I think we can agree on that.
“But rest assured we are making the case very clear to Welsh Government officials and the Minister that this is a crisis, we need the financial resources to be able to support people and that it is unacceptable in this day and age for people to be facing the housing issues that they are.”
Long-serving Buckley Pentrobin Cllr Dennis Hutchinson did not hold back in sharing his belief that the Welsh Government should help fund the demands being made of councils.
He said: “It’s very bad news we’re hearing here this morning, I’m sure we’re all in agreement on that.
“I’m not in the blame game but on this occasion I have to say it stops now with regards to Welsh Government. They’re hiding behind us.
“They’re just allowing us to go our own way without any help from them and you’ll never have heard me speak like that about the Welsh Government before, but I think it’s needed today.
“They are the people handing down massive difficulties to authorities like ourselves, impossible solutions unless they are prepared to intervene.
“It’s playing both ends against the middle, they’re allowing us to carry the can, take the blame.”
The committee decided it would write to the Welsh Government to express their concerns and stress the need for more funding and resources to tackle the problem.
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