A recent count of rough sleepers in Eastbourne was incorrect, the leader of Hastings Borough Council has claimed.
According to council leader Peter Chowney, a count of rough sleepers which reported Eastbourne had higher numbers than Hastings was based on faulty assumptions and has since been revised down.
The comments were made at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (January 24), during a discussion about joint funding given to the towns by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Rough Sleeping Prevention Fund.
Cllr Chowney said: “I am told that we got this money based on Eastbourne having done a rough sleeper count and deciding they had a rough sleeper problem that was even more serious [than] in Hastings.
“So the bid linked these two together, two seaside towns with a really serious rough sleepers problem.
“Since then Eastbourne have realised they did the count wrong, they haven’t got anywhere near as many rough sleepers as they thought they had.
“We’ve still got the money anyway, so that just means there is more for us to spend which is good news.
“I heard tales that when they did the count they were counting people who had a bit of a rough night and spent the night on a bench or somebody who had dozed off while his wife was shopping.
“They were just counting everyone rather than approaching them and establishing if they were rough sleepers.”
In light of Cllr Chowney’s comments Eastbourne Borough Council confirmed it currently knows of at least 33 people sleeping rough in the town – fewer than the 40 people known to be sleeping rough in Hastings.
Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council David Tutt said: “The remarks by Cllr Chowney were made tongue in cheek.
“There are at least 33 known rough sleepers in Eastbourne working with services. This number has only been achieved thanks to Eastbourne Borough Council staff and partners working tirelessly to address the tragedy of homelessness and rough sleeping.
“Regrettably, we believe there are more than 33, but it can be difficult to ascertain exact figures when many rough sleepers sofa surf and others are reluctant to disclose their sleep sites.
“It is also inevitable that with the transient nature of the people who do sleep rough, levels fluctuate from week to week.
“Therefore we must not jump to the conclusion that the numbers of rough sleepers has fallen dramatically, when other coastal towns, particularly in the south east, are seeing rising numbers.
“We are liaising with the MHCLG and will continue to work across a range of areas, most notably the Rough Sleeping Initiative, to give these vulnerable people the support they need to get into safe and secure accommodation.”