Eastbourne Borough Council and the District Councils’ Network have announced details of a letter which calls on the Chancellor to address the homelessness and temporary accommodation crisis that threatens local government's financial sustainability and the services upon which England's most vulnerable people rely.
We are one of 108 district councils to sign the letter.
The letter is endorsed by councils from across the country led by Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and Independents. It follows an emergency summit on 31 October, co-hosted by Eastbourne Borough Council and the District Councils' Network. According to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the cost of temporary accommodation to councils reached £1.7bn last year and it is increasing rapidly.
Two-thirds of the national total of district councils have signed the letter. In many parts of the country, district councils are the tier of principal government closest to communities and they oversee services including housing, leisure centres and waste collection. The rising cost of temporary accommodation hits district councils particularly hard due to a large proportion of their budgets being devoted to housing.
Councillor Stephen Holt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: "119 council leaders, representing areas across England and of all political persuasions are asking Jeremy Hunt to recognise the gravity of this situation and provide local government with the appropriate funding and response.
"I have no doubt that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister understand that this is threatening the very future of services that support and maintain hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents. They cannot allow the safety net we provide to fail; they must act now.
"I am also grateful that so many authorities have responded so quickly and positively to our joint letter. We are all in agreement - this is a national crisis."
In addition to asking for a meeting with the Chancellor ahead of the Autumn Statement, the letter urges six key actions:
- 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.
Councillor Hannah Dalton, the District Councils' Network housing spokesperson, said: "The fact that 119 council leaders from all political groups have joined up to demand urgent action from the Chancellor on homelessness demonstrates that we are in an emergency situation, right across the country.
"Councils simply do not have the money to cope with this surge of demand for temporary accommodation and without action from Jeremy Hunt they will have no option but to cut services. Such is the scale of the problem that some councils will find themselves effectively bankrupt.
"Unless action is taken in the Autumn Statement, society's most vulnerable people will continue to be hit hardest - the lifeline that their councils offer them will collapse and there will be a knock-on impact on other public services, including the NHS. Funding councils' work properly will prevent homelessness now, easing the need for public services like the NHS to spend huge amounts dealing with the consequences of homelessness in future."
Cllr Mandy Ewings, Leader of West Devon Borough Council, said: “A safe and comfortable roof over the heads of our residents who find themselves in challenging circumstances is a non-negotiable for us. We have services and other funding to support these residents, however with rising costs, we will struggle to continue with the current level of temporary accommodation if we don’t have the financial support from government.
“We welcome the six actions put forward and stand with our fellow councils in the hope that the government will put the steps in place to support our residents.”