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Council facing huge overspend as homelessness budget pressure continues

ByReport2

Nov 12, 2023

Liverpool Council is expected to go millions of pounds over budget as it attempts to tackle the ever-growing homelessness crisis facing the city.

As the number of households in temporary accommodation (TAs) and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) rises across Liverpool, the local authority continues to face financial pressures to support them. With a proposed housing strategy to be published next year setting out how the council will tackle homelessness and housing challenges, new documents have been published detailing an interim strategy to assist those living in B&Bs.

A report to the authority’s sustainable, safe and thriving neighbourhoods scrutiny committee, to be discussed next week, revealed how since 2019, the amount spent of TAs has risen from £250,000 to more than £19m – £3m more than the annual budget set by Liverpool Council.

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The document said currently more than 900 people are in TAs, with an additional 528 in “expensive” B&Bs across Liverpool, more commonly used to provide emergency first night accommodation. Since the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2018), 57% of councils have reported an increase in the use of TAs.

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Analysis by the council said in comparison with other core cities, Liverpool has a high number of households in B&Bs and a high number of families occupying B&B for more than six weeks. Additionally, seven out of 1,000 people have presented as homeless in Liverpool compared to two in 1,000 in the London Borough of Camden.

This presents acute financial challenges according to the local authority, with £19.4m to be forecasted to be spent on B&Bs during this financial year, against a budget of £16m. The report said: “This overspend is mostly due to an increase in demand because of people being evicted due to unpaid rental arrears.”

In the last four years, spending on temporary housing has risen from £250,000 to potentially £26m next year if no action is taken.

As a result, a B&B reduction plan has been agreed by cabinet and senior management, which includes working with registered providers to increase property nominations. Additionally, the authority is seeking to increase early intervention and prevention activities “to prevent housing crises occurring in the first place.”

The document said empty council housing stock would also be refurbished to provide additional accommodation. It added: “The plan is to establish a Scheme that will enable Housing, Adult’s, and Children’s Services to jointly access and procure long-term accommodation.”

Plans have also been put forward to utilise the private rented sector “to undertake a review of policy and practice in this area, to increase supply of urgently needed for permanent accommodation.” A Housing Resettlement Team is being established to support homeless households to move out of temporary accommodation into permanent housing arrangements.

The report will be discussed at Liverpool Town Hall next week.

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