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Concerns raised over new homelessness burdens funding

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Councils are to receive a share of £47.5m over two years to fund the costs of implementing the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

A “small amount” of additional funding could also be provided to “local authorities in high-pressure areas” of homelessness, local government minister Marcus Jones said.

The legislation will place new duties on councils to take action to prevent homelessness, although the duty to provide emergency temporary accommodation for 56 days to people with a local connection but who are not in priority need and who have nowhere safe to stay has been removed. Other services will also be required to refer homeless people or those at risk to local authority housing teams who can provide them with free information and advice services.

Lord Porter (Con), chair of the Local Government Association, which has been working with the Department for Communities & Local Government to estimate the costs associated with the bill’s implementation, raised concerns about the financial estimates.

He said: “The LGA has called for all new duties on councils proposed in the bill to be fully funded both now and in the future, and were pleased when the government committed to this.

“However, councils have concerns that initial costings will inevitably be based on assumptions that are difficult to predict. For example, it is impossible to know how many people will come forward to access the new duties, what the impact of the bill will be on different groups over time, and therefore the funding councils need to deliver duties that reduce homelessness.”

Lord Porter urged the government to review the bill’s impact after two years “to ensure that councils are being fully equipped and funded to deliver” its intentions.

Mr Jones promised in October to fund councils’ new responsibilities under the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

In a written ministerial statement published today Mr Jones said councils will get a share of £35.4m in 2017-18 followed by an allocation from £12.1m in 2018-19. No extra funding has been earmarked for 2019-20.

The money will “meet the new burdens costs associated with the bill over the course of the spending review”, said Mr Jones. “It is estimated that offsetting savings to local authorities will mean there are no costs thereafter.”

Mr Jones said the funding allocation “reflects the cost of the bill in its current form” but added he “will update the new burdens assessment as appropriate” once the bill has been finalised having passed through the Commons and the Lords.

The bill is at committee stage in the Commons, with a debate due tomorrow. 

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