Homeless charity hits out over threat to cut funding lifeline

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A HOMELESS charity has accused a council of “inactivity and mismanagement” after housing providers were warned that their funding could cease in three months.

Doorstep of Hull and other providers have been sent three months notice of termination of their contracts by Hull Council, for the third year in a row.

Doorstep said that in the worst-case scenario there would be cuts, leaving the most vulnerable groups in the city without support or a roof over their heads.

The letter to providers says Hull Council is facing “unprecedented challenges”.

The council had been expecting an £8m cut, but said that now was in the order of £13.6m for the next financial year.

The letter said services would be put on a more secure footing by carrying out an accreditation and tender process.

But Doorstep project director Peter Drinkell said the council had the best part of two years to put its house in order and had made the “same excuses” before. The charity, which provides support to 260 young homeless people, receives around a quarter of its funding from the council’s £6.4m Supporting People budget.

Mr Drinkell said other housing groups would have to send out “at risk” notices to staff.

“We haven’t had to because we knew they were going to do this and put contingencies in place. But there will be organisations who have to and that will not be a nice Christmas present for them,” he said.

“The council is not consulting with us, we don’t know what the budget allocation is going to be for the next financial year.

“The ring-fence has come off the Supporting People’s budget so they can spend it on what they want, which is what the Lib Dems did in 2010-11 when they top-sliced 50 per cent of the budget – and 7,000 old people lost services.”

Mr Drinkell blamed managerial “inactivity” and mismanagement for the situation which created difficulties in running his own organisation – not least staffing and recruitment.

He said: “They were supposed to run a procurement exercise which would have put people on new contracts but they never started it. They then published another timeline for another procurement exercise, which may or may not happen – who knows?

“If you are in a position as some organisations will be and the funding does indeed stop on March 31 and you have tenants what are you supposed to be doing with them?

“There is absolutely contingency plan, there’s absolutely nothing.

“After the Lib Dems did what they did we know there’s no political will on behalf of the Labour group to cut that funding but it is now subsumed into the greater social services budget.

“They are obviously overspent on the children in care budget which is always overspent; there’s a great temptation to hive some of that off and they have form for doing it.

“In the worst case, there will be further cuts to services leaving the most vulnerable people in the city without any support or a roof over their head.”

Another affected charity said it doubted there would be a blanket removal of services, which the council in some cases was mandated to provide. But it did suspect there could be cuts in the overall budget, with implications for housing providers.

Brendan Arnold, director of resources and city treasurer at the council, said: “The council has issued notice on a precautionary basis to voluntary and community providers currently commissioned to provide housing related support, as we cannot give commitments into the next financial year until we have worked through the implications of the Government settlement.

“The council understands that this uncertainty is unhelpful to providers and would wish to provide greater clarity; however this position is a consequence of the Government’s timing in releasing funding information.”