Secret report warns cash crisis could prove 'catastrophic'

First published in News by

A SECRET document warns of “catastrophic”

cuts to services for the most vulnerable residents in Basingstoke and Deane.

The confidential report, which has been seen by The Gazette, tells borough chiefs to prepare for an increase in homelessness in the wake of severe cuts to vital borough services looking after people without a roof over their heads, victims of domestic abuse, the mentally-ill, exoffenders and the elderly.

May Place House, a Basingstoke town centre hostel for the homeless, and Basingstoke Refuge, which provides a safe place for victims of domestic abuse, are among care organisations under threat of losing funding.

The challenge is coming from cuts to Supporting People (SP) – the national programme which delivers housing-related support to vulnerable residents.

The confidential report for the Cabinet at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, written by Kate Randall, the council’s housing manager, asked members to consider what to do to stop “a national 12 per cent cut in SP funding falling disproportionately on Basingstoke and Deane”.

However, Hampshire County Council yesterday revealed it is preparing for a 14.3 per cent reduction to SP funding.

In her report, Mrs Randall writes: “There can be no doubt that any further real cuts in spending simply cannot be absorbed without the loss of valuable and vital services to vulnerable people.”

She says the SP cash has helped almost eradicate rough-sleeping and the use of bed-andbreakfast accommodation in the borough.

But she warns: “The potentially cumulative impact of these funding pressures could be catastrophic. Given the nature of the SP programme, there is a strong likelihood any cuts will lead to increases in homelessness.”

The report was considered in private by the Cabinet in November – and opposition councillors have now said they are “furious” that such damaging news has been kept secret.

Councillor Gavin James (pictured above) leader of the borough’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “This report seems incredibly damaging. I am furious that nobody outside the administration knew this is happening.

Our residents are being kept in the dark about what they are doing. It is disgusting.”

Cllr Laura James, leader of the borough’s Labour group, said: “These cuts are an attack on the most vulnerable people in our borough.

“The county council has just spent £40million on new offices – have they got their priorities right? I think it’s only right that the community know about this. In the end, it is going to be disastrous.”

Cllr Ian Tilbury (above right), borough Independent Forum Co-ordinator, said: “What concerns me is that they [the Cabinet] have been sitting on this and thinking about this for some time.

“There is nothing we can do about the cuts, but the sooner we know, the sooner we can make provisions.”

Supporting People is administered through Hampshire County Council, which is under severe financial pressure.

It is feared county-wide cuts could fall disproportionately on organisations in Basingstoke and Deane because spending on vulnerable groups using SP money has been higher.

The confidential report says £4.5m of SP funding supports 514 people at any one time, either at home or at May Place, at Penn House, in Cromwell Road, and at other satellite buildings.

The money also supports places for vulnerable people at Mary Rose Court, in Attwood Close, Joshua Tree, in Worting Road and the Basingstoke Refuge.

Some 171 adults with disabilities are aided by £1.5m and 1,831 older people benefit from £860,000 spent on sheltered housing support, alarms, gardening and other aid.

Nicola Youern, chief executive of You, the charity which manages May Place House and young persons’ services in Basingstoke, said the report highlights the importance of Supporting People.

She added: “This is the sort of (council) paper that is being written up and down the country at the moment. We know Supporting People is at risk, but Hampshire have always been very responsible and do not make any knee-jerk reactions.”

Cllr Cathy Osselton, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Cabinet member for housing, health and culture, said: “Supporting People funding is extremely important to the borough and to those who benefit from it.

“Until we know more on the actual level and pattern of funding from the county council, it would be unfair and irresponsible to raise speculative, and possibly unfounded, fears among vulnerable service users.

“Those service users can rest assured that we are working in their best interests to get the best outcome possible within the current challenging financial climate.”

A Hampshire County Council spokesman said: “Hampshire County Council has not yet set its budget. It is due to do so in February.

Until then no decisions on the authority’s budget will be made.”

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