Cuts to beds for homeless in Derby will come at 'worst possible time'
CUTS to the number of beds for the homeless in Derby will come at the "worst possible time", just as the cold weather sets in, a leading campaigner has said.
Pat Zadora, chairman of Derby homelessness charity Padley Group, spoke out after the council gave details of how many beds it would fund this year.
To save money, the authority wants to cut the number of contracts it has to provide hostel, refuge and shelter beds in the city from April.
It has held talks with six providers on six-month extensions to their deals but, even if those talks are successful, the number of beds will still drop from 556 to 376 in April and then, once the contract extensions run out, to 179 in October.
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The cuts are part of the council's plans to save £62 million over the next three years due to cuts to its grants from Government.
Mrs Zadora predicted the beds cuts could mean more than 1,000 people being left without shelter in Derby over a year.
She added: "The extra beds going in October comes at the worst time of the year. They will be putting more people on the streets as winter bites."
Councillor Baggy Shanker, cabinet member responsible for housing, said previously that negotiations over the six-month contract extensions would allow the council to consult with these providers to "map out a way forward with the existing funding and any extra funding if we are able to secure it".
At a meeting of the council's planning, housing and leisure board last night, Labour councillor Barbara Jackson said: "It's a shame the Government is putting us in this position. We want to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable in the city but we've done everything we can."
The city is losing beds because the council is cutting its "housing-related support budget" from £6,675,000 to £3,675,000 in April.
But the amount the council would save by cutting spending on beds was called into question by one of its own officers.
Lisa Callow, the head of housing options and advice, said some extra money could be needed to pay for bed and breakfast accommodation for people the council has a legal duty to protect but may no longer have the beds for.
She said these included children under 18, disabled single people or families with dependent children.
The council's current annual budget for spending on bed and breakfast is £61,490.
Mrs Callow said after the meeting: "I believe there will be an increase in temporary accommodation costs."
Councillor Phil Ingall, Tory shadow cabinet member for housing, said: "At current levels, the £61,490 would pay for about 2,480 nights in B and Bs. It's going to be nowhere near enough. The council will find some of its savings are wiped out."
Mrs Callow said homelessness figures would be hit by a "double-whammy" caused by the beds cuts taking place at the same time as the Government's welfare reforms.
Under the new universal credit system, a range of existing benefits, including housing benefit, will be combined into a single payment.
The Government wants the payment to go to tenants rather than allowing the housing element to go to their landlords.
Mrs Callow said this could mean private landlords "won't necessarily want to house people in receipt of universal credit".