A cross party group of women dug their heels in at Cornwall Council

Posted on: 13th November 2015

A cross party group of women dug their heels in at Cornwall Council today when discussing some additional proposed savings affecting the Economy, Enterprise and Environment Directorate. This was at the Housing and Environment Policy Advisory Committee. If people want to view the complete papers, they are here – Housing & Environment PAC 13 November 2013

To be honest, I went to the meeting concerned about the following 2 items:

  1. Savings Reference: EEE16-004 Withdrawal from offering prevention loans to clients who are at risk of homelessness. Examples of loans to prevent homelessness would be rent in advance to secure new accommodation or paying off arrears to maintain existing accommodation. The reason given was that this method of prevention is not sustainable in the long term as people do not pay them back and it is leading to increased bad debt. Cornwall Housing Limited (who operate the loan scheme for the Council) have been requested to work up alternative models of delivery that are sustainable in the medium to long term. It is proposed to review the future delivery model for implementation by 1st April 2017.
  2. Savings Reference: EEE16-005 To develop new model for delivery of temporary accommodation. Cornwall Housing Limited manages and maintains a range of temporary accommodation for applicants to which the Council owe a homeless duty. In the main these are homes which are leased from private sector landlords and have a variety of leases and terms. The costs to the Council were described as unsustainable so Cornwall Housing Limited is being asked to review and implement a new model which removes this pressure with the new model for delivery of temporary accommodation being ready to be implemented during 2016-17.

My thinking was that, in terms of the loans, the reasons people are not re-paying them is probably because they cannot afford to. I felt we needed to consider more fully the likely consequences of withdrawing the loans which might be people turning to loan sharks or becoming homeless. To me, this then would also feed into the proposed saving re temporary accommodation. If more people are homeless then more people will need temporary accommodation, which we are being told we cannot afford to pay for either.

My concern, at the meeting, was that the recommendation was asking us to support these proposed changes even though we had no details of how the impact was going to managed and what the new arrangements might look like. We were reassured that a report would come to us BUT myself and Independent Councillor, Judith Haycock, felt that was not good enough. Once we had put our hands up to ‘support’, at a later date, if we did not like the proposed revised schemes from Cornwall Housing Limited or if we felt the knock on effects might end up costing other parts of the Council more money, Officers would tell us we voted to ‘support’ the reduced budget.

Well, Judith and I were being challenged to keep in the word ‘support’ but that it be added in that a report on those two items would be brought to committee. Labour Councillor Dorothy Kirk then joined us and it was finally agreed that we should not be expected to say we support these parts of the budget reductions until the report had come and we had a chance to discuss the details of the proposals.

Another day where I feel my trip to Truro was worthwhile. During the course of the debate, to make my point, I did say that I did not know what the new temporary accommodation scheme might look like so I might be inadvertently supporting the issuing of cardboard boxes or tents to homeless people. Hopefully this now means we will be able to make more informed decisions on whether or not to cut these 2 budgets.

I think I am learning!