On 4 March the Council discussed the budget proposals for the coming year. Legally, the Council is required to set a balanced budget. With so many Councils going bust or in great financial difficulty, this was always going to be a difficult task. The problems are due to Government cuts but also a big spike in demand for services. While people think of the Council as the people who mend the potholes, empty the bins and fix the street lights, 70% of spending is on adult social care and children’s services (particularly for those children with special educational needs), plus the cost of finding accommodation for the homeless. There has been a major increase in demand in the past year, particularly in the number of adults whose social care has to be paid for by the Council and in the number of homeless families.

Trish and Richard both spoke in the debate, Trish on the role of audit and governance (she chairs the Audit and Governance Committee) and Richard on homelessness – a subject in which he has a special interest due to the work history of his daughter, Ellie, and because as chair of Planning Committee he has a role in increasing the supply of affordable family accommodation.

Here is Richard’s speech:

“There is a statistic buried on page 21 of the main paper that an
extra £2.75 million is needed due to the additional demand for
temporary accommodation. This is the cost of homelessness – and
tonight 1045 Sutton families are homeless and living in bed
and breakfast accommodation, many of them some distance from
Sutton. I find this a frightening figure.
I commend what the Council is doing – not set out at length in
these papers before us tonight – to help people avoid
homelessness and to assist them if it happens. And I am pleased at what we are doing to increase the supply of affordable family homes.

But what a local authority can do is limited. This is a national issue.
There has been a major spike in homelessness in the last year,
not just in Sutton but nation wide.
We ought to recognise the causes of this – that families have been
priced out of their homes by the cost of living crisis and the 14
consecutive monthly increases in interest rates that followed the
famous budget based on the principles associated with those
revered icons of the Conservative right Kwasi Kwarteng and – Lis
Truss – who I see is now re-inventing herself as an icon of
American and British deep state conspiracy theorists.
Who cares about homelessness ? Not the Government, which
ignores reasonable policy proposals that would help, such as the
proposals last week from the LGA to lift the cap on housing benefit
subsidy for temporary accommodation, increase
discretionary housing payments and – most important – ensure that local housing
allowance rates track market rates.
Not Rishi Sunak, whose often repeated targets we are asked to
judge him on – not that he is achieving them – do not include any
target on reducing homelessness, which he clearly does not see
as important. I find that shocking.
And can I mention the contribution to the debate of that other great
icon of the Conservative right Suella Braverman who told us the
homelessness crisis was largely caused by foreigners and by
people who chose homelessness as a life style, and that the big issue was
“Should they be allowed to sleep in tents ?”
That seems cruelly remote from our homeless residents worried
about how to get their kids to school in Sutton when they are in B
and B accommodation in Slough or Heathrow, or somewhere.
This is a problem causing destitution and poverty.
We are doing what we can – but it requires Government action and the Tory Government is in
complete denial.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *