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Temporary accommodation crisis leads to 'punitive level of savings'

The leader of Eastbourne Borough Council has spoken about the need for a fundamental government rethink in the way local authorities are funded or face 'the failure of multiple public services'.

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Councillor Stephen Holt was speaking following a Cabinet meeting last night (20 March) that considered how the council's stability and growth programme is driving improvements and efficiencies, while also addressing soaring costs due to rising homeless and temporary accommodation costs.

Councillor Holt said: "Eastbourne led a national campaign about the social and financial crisis that councils across the UK are dealing with. And as part of that campaign, I shared a platform with council leaders of all colours, imploring the government to engage with us and develop long-term solutions that will put an end to444 children - in Eastbourne alone - living in temporary accommodation and the wholly unsustainable costs of those placements.

"Unfortunately, solving the homelessness crisis doesn't appear to be high on the government's agenda, so it's almost inevitable that councils everywhere will find themselves in the same place this time next year.

"We have to find £3.4 million between now and 2025/26, which is a punitive level of savings.  Keep repeating that and we reach the point where the failure of multiple public services is staring us straight in the face."

Since July 2023, the council has implemented a far-reaching stability and growth programme that follows over £6 million in council savings already delivered in recent years.

With temporary accommodation costs of £4.6 million in 2023/2024, the council was forced to apply for financial support to address this unavoidable overspend but the money is borrowed at a higher interest rate than usual local authority borrowing.

Councillor Holt added: "While I am pleased that the government recognised the unprecedented pressures we are dealing with, it is pretty galling that through no fault of our own we have to borrow this money from the government at an inflated interest rate.

"We are not alone, with 19 other councils having to seek this additional financial support,  it's clear to me and other leaders across the political spectrum that the funding system for local government is broken. I continue my calls to government to meet with us to discuss this and how together we can find solutions.

"It's been a very challenging six months, but I want to put on record my grateful thanks to all the council officers who have helped to navigate a way through this social and financial crisis, while at the same time maintaining the services that our residents rely on."

Published on March 21, 2024.

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