Two weeks ago in this column, I wrote about welcoming the Government’s £100 m strategy to tackle rough sleeping on England's streets and to end it completely by 2027. This strategy has been widely well-received including by homelessness charities. I also mentioned the excellent work undertaken by our leading local homelessness charity Crawley Open House, and by Crawley Borough Council which has the statutory local authority function for preventing homelessness.
When I wrote that column, I was unaware that West Sussex County Council (which doesn’t have a statutory housing function) also supports homelessness services in Crawley with £250,000 a year that assists Crawley Open House. I learned of this last week when it emerged that as part of the £36 million of savings that the County Council needs to make to protect its vital statutory services such as the ever growing need for adult social care, that withdrawing this discretionary funding was to be considered among a range of options.
I was concerned to hear this as despite the County Council not having the statutory responsibility for homelessness, I believe all the public sector and politicians should work together in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. This view is shared by my colleagues and we are making strong representations to the County Council for this funding to continue.
I am only too aware of the funding pressures that exist for upper tier authorities such as West Sussex County Council. It has been well documented in the national media that County Councils are under huge financial pressure with Northamptonshire highlighted as badly struggling. It is also well known that local Borough Councils do not have anything like the same financial pressures, with Crawley Borough Council being one of the richest Councils in England.
While pressing for discretionary County Council assistance to continue, if it genuinely cannot, then I give an undertaking that if I were Leader of Crawley Borough Council, I would be instructing Finance Officers to re-prioritise budgets to ensure this funding can continue. After all, the sums involved are only a fraction of what the new Crawley Town Hall is costing.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
5th September 2018