A plan to cut funding from homelessness groups such as Crawley Open House has been branded a ‘deeply immoral act’.
West Sussex County Council is considering cutting housing support contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from April 2019.
A report published in the council’s Forward Plan on Wednesday evening (August 29) questioned whether the service was ‘sustainable’ and said Amanda Jupp, cabinet member for adults and health, would be asked to get the ball rolling on ending the contracts.
A decision is expected in September.
Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said that by pulling the funding, the county would be ‘effectively closing homeless hostels across West Sussex’, including Crawley Open House.
Mr Lamb added: “This is a deeply immoral act and the wider community will feel the impact of the homeless being deprived of somewhere safe to go.
“At last year’s General Election, the Conservatives pledged to end rough sleeping by 2027, we see now what that promise was worth.”
Crawley Open House, which has helped thousands of homeless and disadvantaged people since it opened in Stephenson Way, Three Bridges, in 1996, has urged West Sussex to think again.
In a statement, the charity warned that if it had to cut services – or even close – the cost to the likes of the NHS and Sussex Police would be greater than any saving made.
A spokesman said: “Reducing our grant to zero would seem to contradict governmental aims and would have a devastating effect on our ability to meet the needs of disadvantaged people already facing overwhelming challenges.”
She added: “At the moment, we are helping more people in need than ever before through our hostel, day centre and in the community.
“Demand for our help has increased year on year and the current socio-economic climate shows no sign of things improving for those that are already struggling.”
Last year, Crawley was listed among 65 ‘cold spots’ by the government’s Social Mobility Commission in its State of the Nation report. It was ranked 304th out of 324 local authorities, meaning people from disadvantaged backgrounds had some of the lowest chances for social progress in the country.
The Open House spokesman said: “With all of the above in mind, we are deeply concerned to hear that we may lose the support of West Sussex County Council should they move forward with their plans to terminate our contract with them.”
The Forward Plan report stated that West Sussex used to receive government funding for these services as part of the Supporting People programme.
The funding was stopped in 2011 and, since then, the money has been provided from the county’s base budget.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, lauded its track record for keeping its finances ‘solid’ but added: “However now, even for us, the financial situation for local authorities is becoming so dire that we are having to take some really difficult decisions.
“The squeeze on local government is due to reducing funding from central government.”
Mrs Goldsmith added: “The stark reality is we simply do not have the money to continue delivering the services we currently deliver in the same way and to the same level.
“We have come to the point that we need to make some difficult and necessary choices and this is the first reluctant step in this budget process.
“Locally there is really good work happening and we are committed to working in creative, innovative ways including collaborative working with partners to do as much as we can to mitigate the impact of these decisions and in doing so limit the effect on residents.”
Mrs Goldsmith said a ‘full and thorough decision making process’ would be carried out and added: “Any changes we make we will do with the full understanding of the impact that has and the support we need to put in place to make sure we mitigate the impact for all of our communities.”
Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service