Scarborough Council hit out at county council over last-minute change to homeless services

Council Leader Steve Siddons. PIC: Richard Ponter
Council Leader Steve Siddons. PIC: Richard Ponter

The leader of Scarborough Council has hit out at the county council over its decision to make a last-minute change to an agreement over the future of homeless support services in the borough.

In June, Scarborough Council leader Cllr Steve Siddons (LAB) agreed to bring a homeless service provider in-house following a decision by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) to cut its funding provision for homeless and rough sleeping support in Scarborough by 45%.

Scarborough Town Hall.

Scarborough Town Hall.

Horton Housing provides support to around 120 households within the borough and under the proposed agreement would be run by the borough council, though a number of jobs would be lost as a result of the move.

The June agreement was for a five-year period but now the county has rocked the borough council by seeking a 12-month get-out clause.

Cllr Siddons has now instructed borough council officers to seek assurances from the county council that it is committed to the scheme and said he will not sign off on the new deal at this time.

He said: “In May this year a five-year support plan for the county’s homeless was agreed, the county would fund the borough’s homeless support service with an inflation-linked £145,669 annual grant. This is a core service which prevents and relieves homelessness.

“Two weeks ago the county council gave us notice they now want to renege on that agreement with an opt-out clause.

“The county council’s commitment to the county’s homeless has become progressively worse.

“The previous borough administration leader rightly said in January that the county’s 2019/20 budget proposals were ‘frightening’.

“The borough council’s housing portfolio holder has assured me he lobbied the county council. Unfortunately, county councillors ignored this and in February they voted through a budget cut to homeless support for the borough from £259,000 to this £145,000 grant.

“I had already met with the county’s chief executive and leader to express my concerns about the cuts they made in that budget, almost halving homeless support, and asked them to reverse those. This new opt-out request is even more disconcerting.”

The move by the county council to cut the funding for services across North Yorkshire’s seven districts will save it around £600,000.

As part of the proposed change to the deal, the county council has said it would cover any redundancy costs incurred by the borough should the funding to the homeless service cease.

Cllr Siddons said he has asked the borough council’s officers to ensure NYCC is “committed to the long term future of the programme” before any decision is made.

He added: “Homelessness is increasing nationally and locally and the county council must accept its responsibility, as one of the richest counties in the country, to supporting the most vulnerable in North Yorkshire.

“This support is for those with major health and social care needs and victims of domestic violence who require tenancy and homelessness prevention support.”

Dale Owens, assistant director of Commissioning and Quality at NYCC, said the county had no plans to pull out of the deal.

He said: “The collaboration agreement between the county council and the seven district and borough councils of North Yorkshire to provide homelessness support services is for a period of five years.

“Included is a 12-month termination clause, which can be enacted by any of the parties to the collaboration agreement should this be required. The inclusion of a termination clause does not signify any intention at this stage to end the five-year agreement early.”