‘We are all in agreement - this is a national crisis’ – 119 council leaders urging Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to tackle surge in use of temporary accommodation
The leaders of Portsmouth (Steve Pitt), Fareham (Sean Woodward) and Havant (Alex Rennie) councils are among those calling on Mr Hunt to address the homelessness and temporary accommodation crisis that threatens local government’s financial sustainability.
The letter follows an emergency summit held last week, co-hosted by Eastbourne Borough Council and the District Councils’ Network.
According to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the cost of temporary accommodation to councils reached £1.7bn last year and it is increasing rapidly.
The signatories included 108 district councils – two-thirds of the total.
In many parts of the country, district councils are the tier of principal government closest to communities and they oversee services including housing, leisure centres and waste collection.
The rising cost of temporary accommodation hits district councils particularly hard due to a large proportion of their budgets being devoted to housing.
Cllr Stephen Holt, Leader of Eastbourne BC, said: “119 council leaders, representing areas across England and of all political persuasions, are asking Jeremy Hunt to recognise the gravity of this situation and provide local government with the appropriate funding and response.
“I have no doubt that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister understand that this is threatening the very future of services that support and maintain hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents.
"They cannot allow the safety net we provide to fail, they must act now.
“I am also grateful that so many authorities have responded so quickly and positively to our joint letter. We are all in agreement - this is a national crisis.”
The letter to Mr Hunt states: “An unprecedented number of people are turning to councils as the last option for support when they face homelessness.
"As councils, we are proud of the help we give to people when they need it, but our situation is becoming untenable. We have had no option but to rapidly escalate our use of temporary accommodation, which is threatening to overwhelm our budgets.
“The ensuing increase in costs is a critical risk to the financial sustainability of many local authorities and we urge you to act swiftly to ensure we can continue our vital work.
"The pressure is particularly acute for district councils because housing costs constitute a far bigger proportion of our overall expenditure.
“Without urgent intervention, the existence of our safety net is under threat.
"The danger is that we have no option but to start withdrawing services which currently help so many families to avoid hitting crisis point.
"There will also be a knock-on impact on other cherished council services, which councils could also have to scale back, and on other parts of the public sector – such as the NHS – which will be left to pick up the pieces.”