Homeless 'challenges' await as budget cuts force services in-house

North Yorkshire County Council funding cuts will see the district council's bring certain homelessness prevention services back in-house.
North Yorkshire County Council funding cuts will see the district council's bring certain homelessness prevention services back in-house.

Senior members of Harrogate Borough Council acknowledge they will face "challenges" after the county authority slashed its homelessness prevention budget almost in half.

A meeting of Harrogate's cabinet this month saw councillors informed that district councils will be tasked with bringing some homeless services "in-house", after North Yorkshire County Council announced they would not be renewing their contract with Horton Housing.

It comes against a backdrop of North Yorkshire's homelessness prevention budget being cut from £1,141,264 to £654,763.

Member for housing and safer communities, Coun Mike Chambers, conceded to fellow cabinet members that the cut would present Harrogate some difficulties.

“Clearly we can understand the need for North Yorkshire County Council to make savings, however it does present us with some challenges," he said, before adding that the borough "will take these challenges head on".

The county council had employee Horton Housing to provide a number of homeless support and prevention services.

A HBC report on the matter describes the decision as "unfortunate".

"The timing of the decision is unfortunate as it comes at a time of increased levels of homelessness (both locally and nationally) and increased legal

responsibilities on councils to tackle this issue," Harrogate council's report on the matter states.

Council documents state that NYCC will instead pay Harrogate an annual grant of £115,972 to perform services previously undertaken by Horton Housing.

"This model proposes a fundamental change as it moves away from current

external contracting arrangements to an ‘in-house’ approach led by the

district/borough councils," the report says.

"This approach relies on the Upper Tier and Lower Tier Authorities entering into an agreement and pooling their expertise and resources for a common goal, namely; the prevention of homelessness.

However, the cost of providing services is £153,078 - with Harrogate council to fund the difference.

Harrogate's report also states that if NYCC withdraws funding over the next five years, the district council could be left to pick up the cost - including paying redundancy costs for employees under the scheme.

The report comes as Harrogate council readies to roll-out its Street Aid initiative.

A joint project between HBC, North Yorkshire Police and Harrogate Homeless Project, the move will see a contactless payment point set up in the town's centre, where people can donate £3 to local charities set up to help rough sleepers.

The project won't be affected by the changes to North Yorkshire's homelessness budget.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter