A senior politician at Leeds City Council has expressed concerns over cuts to funding to help solve homelessness.
It follows a report which states the grant Leeds City Council received from government to combat homelessness has reduced by more than one third.
And, while the council says it will use its cash reserves to plug the £600,000 gap in the coming year, Coun Jim McKenna (Lab) asked whether such funding was sustainable.
Speaking at a meeting of the authority’s strategy scrutiny board, Coun McKenna said: “Given homelessness is on the increase, this presents a problem.
“I’m glad to see we are making up the shortfall from our reserves, but my question is whether this is sustainable.
“I often go to the hospital to pick my wife up on a night and there are four rough sleepers in the vicinity. It seems to be a growing problem rather than a receeding one. We can solve the problem for this financial year, but we need planning for the next few years.
“The problem isn’t going away – it is not improving.”
A report into the council’s budget for the forthcoming year claims its flexible homelessness support grant will reduce by £664,000 from £1.794 million to £1.129 million in the 2019/20 financial year.
It added: “The council will continue to use the £1.1m of grant to achieve homeless prevention outcomes, further reductions in temporary accommodation placements and to best assist entrenched rough sleepers with drug and alcohol dependency issues. The reduction in the level of grant income will be funded in 2019/20 from reserves held on the balance sheet.”
Responding to Coun McKenna, a council officer said: “There are two sides of homelessness – there are people who don’t have a legal place to stay but are still accommodated, perhaps at home with a parent; and there are people who are rough sleeping.
“There are a lot of the first and you don’t see them, and there is a smaller number of the second but they are very prominent in our city and we all worry about that.
“The flexible homelessness grant we got was more about the first category. The government brought in legislation that requires councils to make a plan for people under threat of eviction.
“The people sleeping on the street is a real worry, but we are getting some cash from government. There is a street support team, but that strategy is very much under review. We need to make sure that area is under control and those people are properly supported.”
Deputy leader of Leeds City Council James Lewis added: “Reserves can only be spent once, and once they are gone they are gone – we need to provide stable funding for core services.
“I don’t think anyone sat round the table would disagree that trying to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping is a core service of the council, but it’s still funded by one-off grants, funny money and knobbly knees competitions to win a little bit more money to keep services going.”