A COUNCILLOR has warned that homelessness in Basingstoke will increase after funding to support people on the streets in the town has been cut by 12 per cent by Hampshire County Council (HCC).

As part of its bid to make £80 million of cuts, HCC has axed £360,000 funding support for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for its homelessness services.

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At a meeting last month, Councillor Liz Fairhurst, the county council’s executive member for adult services and public health agreed the recommendations to cut funding.

She said the council had “no choice” adding: “It’s with regret, nobody wants to cut these grants, nobody sitting here wants to do it, the officers certainly don’t. They don’t come into public service to cut grants and I certainly didn’t become a councillor, as I’m sure my fellow councillors will agree, to cut money from people, but we have no choice.”

County Councillor Kim Taylor, who represents the Basingstoke Central Division, said she is “deeply disturbed and saddened” by the cuts, saying it will “hit the most vulnerable in our society”.

She added: “This is a bad time as the cost-of-living crisis is starting to bite and shows no sign of going away we can expect homelessness to increase as more and more people will face difficult choices between food and rent or mortgage payments.

“Councils need to be putting government under pressure for a more realistic financial settlement. As well as suffering from a 12-year austerity programme councils are also affected by the cost of living. They too have to pay increased National Insurance, extra energy and fuel and the cost of social care is skyrocketing without any support from the government.”

Cllr Taylor said she was particularly disappointed because the council voted down a motion in February to produce a documented and evidenced case to the government for a better funding deal.

She said: “The gap between what is need to supply even the most basic of services and the money provided by government is now so wide it cannot be filled by cuts and savings plans.

“All most councils can do is hope that if enough go bankrupt the government will produce a fairer funding deal, and they just hope to stay solvent long enough to not be first in the queue going over the financial cliff.”

Cllr Fairhurst said the “statutory responsibility” for supporting people who are homeless lies with district and borough local authorities.

She added: “Given this, and the increasing financial pressures the county council is experiencing, our support for homelessness services across Hampshire will reduce by £360,000 each year from next April.

“We will, however, continue to spend some £2million per annum to help deliver accommodation for the most vulnerable homeless people, as well as outreach and community support in those areas where accommodation is harder to access.”

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s cabinet member for homes and regeneration Samuel Carr said the council is "incredibly proud" of the work to reduce homelessness and the number of rough sleepers in the borough.

He added that following the decision to cut funding, the council has "taken swift action to identify how we can fill the funding gap".

This includes using a homelessness grant, working alongside a social inclusion partnership and "constantly reviewing and seeking out more innovative ways of delivering services".

Mr Carr added: "We will continue to ensure supporting our most vulnerable residents remains a key priority for this council.”

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