Letter: More on Hastings’ homeless

Cllr John Rankin

Conquest Ward, Hastings

For the sake of balance and in order to assist readers in reaching a reasonable opinion on the question of homelessness and the tragic deaths recently in Hastings I have to respond to my colleague Cllr Andy

Batsford’s letter published on Friday, January 12 under the headline ‘Deaths linked to damaging cuts’.

I sit on a cross-party committee at Hastings Borough Council called Overview and Scrutiny. As the name would suggest the committee scrutinises the work of the council in various areas and reports back to the cabinet which makes decisions about the running of our town.

On Thursday, January 11, 2018 the committee had an ‘inquiry day’ into the issue of homelessness in our town.

The timing of this meeting had been set many months beforehand, but bearing in mind the recent sad turn of events, could not have been more prescient.

I share with readers now the facts presented to us at that meeting. In 2016/2017, 537 people presented themselves as potentially homeless to the council. 230 were accepted as being genuinely under imminent danger of finding themselves on the streets. 74 of these applicants had to be placed into temporary accommodation.

There remained 40 rough sleepers, 30 of which were described as ‘hardcore-homeless’ who despite the offer of help from various agencies including Hastings Borough Council, found their health issues and associated problems prevented them from taking shelter.

In terms of whether the recent deaths are ‘linked to damaging cuts’ I present the following facts so that readers can form their own opinion.

Under the old funding arrangements Hastings Borough Council received approximately £60 per week, through the housing benefit system, to assist in finding temporary accommodation for those who found themselves without a home.

On page 21 of the last edition of your newspaper, you state: ‘In a bid to eradicate the problem of rough sleeping...the Government has awarded Hastings Borough Council with £971,166.09 for 2017 – 2019’. This was confirmed at the scrutiny committee meeting.

The key fact that Cllr Batsford fails to mention is that this amount is more than the money previously made available and is ring-fenced for the use it is intended, whereas the previous allowance was not.

Cllr Batsford remonstrates with readers in his letter not to ‘let our MP tell you that the government is putting more money into homelessness issues – it’s just not true’

This statement is false. The Government is putting more money into homelessness issues as the facts above demonstrate. Cllr Batsford says that he will continue to ‘call out’ this government – a right which I respect, but he should get his facts straight before he does.

See also: Deaths linked to damaging cuts