Scarborough Council’s leader has described a plan to cut funding to a service which provided emergency accommodation to rough sleepers in winter as “frightening”.
Cllr Derek Bastiman (Con) made the comments as the authority’s cabinet today met to agree to continue to fund the Winter Watch scheme.
The cabinet was told that Winter Watch is commissioned by North Yorkshire County Council, which is now proposing to cut the budget for the scheme in half.
Andrew Rowe, the borough council’s housing manager, told the cabinet that Winter Watch provided support to 120 homeless households in Scarborough and Ryedale in 2018.
Under the scheme, the county council, through Horton Housing, can provide emergency accommodation to those in need in winter if they present themselves for assessment at the police station.
Mr Rowe said: “The county’s contract with Horton Housing ends in September and the county is looking to make savings.
“Its budget is around £1.2million for the county and they are looking to save £600,000.
“Whatever service is offered going forward will be reduced compared to what we have now.”
One option is for the county council to bring the service “in house”.
Cllr Bastiman said he feared the implications of the cuts.
He said: “They are cutting the budget by 50% and expecting the same service to be provided?
“It is frightening.”
Cllr Heather Phillips (Con) said she feared that the issue of rough sleeping was already getting worse before any cuts to the service.
She said: “I am really, really concerned that if you cut a budget by 50% then you get 50% of the service.
“I have seen more people sleeping rough [in Scarborough] in the last month than I saw in the entirety of 2018.
“This isn’t a problem that is just going to go away just because the county council decides to cut the budget.”
The borough council agreed to continue its contribution of £25,000 a year to the scheme. The council will also discuss potential cuts to the funding with their counterparts at County Hall in Northallerton.
In response to the borough’s claims Richard Webb, the county council’s corporate director of Health and Adult Services, said: “Borough and district councils lead North Yorkshire’s work to support homeless people, including rough sleepers, and have taken on additional prevention responsibilities with new funding to do so under the Homeless Reduction Act.
“North Yorkshire County Council does not provide funding towards the Winter Watch service. We contribute funding to homeless hostels and to refuges for people who have experienced domestic violence, as well as support for people with additional health and social care needs who require tenancy and preventative support.
“Some of these services are under review and savings have to be made as the county council needs to protect services for the most vulnerable, for whom we have a statutory responsibility.
“However, the aim is to reduce duplication and spend money better across the eight councils in the county so that the best support can be given to people with housing, health and social care needs.”