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Contact: Kate Batty-Smith Democratic Services Officer
Election of Chairman
The Democratic Services Officer advised that, in the absence of Councillor J S Back, the Chairman of the Homelessness Project Advisory Group, there was a requirement to elect a chairman for the meeting.
It was moved by Councillor M D Conolly and duly seconded and
RESOLVED: That Councillor K E Morris be elected Chairman of the meeting.
To receive any apologies for absence.
It was noted that apologies for absence had been received from Councillors J S Back and B Gardner.
Appointment of Substitute Members
To note appointments of Substitute Members.
It was noted that, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 4, Councillors N S Kenton and N A G Richards had been appointed as substitute Members for Councillors J S Back and B Gardner respectively.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest from Members in respect of business to be transacted on the agenda.
It was noted that there were no declarations of interest.
To note the Group’s Terms of Reference which are attached for information only.
The Group considered the Terms of Reference that had been approved by Cabinet.
RESOLVED: That the Terms of Reference be noted.
The recommendation is attached.
MATTERS WHICH THE MANAGEMENT TEAM SUGGESTS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN PRIVATE AS THE REPORT CONTAINS EXEMPT INFORMATION AS DEFINED WITHIN PART 1 OF SCHEDULE 12A OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972 AS INDICATED AND IN RESPECT OF WHICH THE PROPER OFFICER CONSIDERS THAT THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN MAINTAINING THE EXEMPTION OUTWEIGHS THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN DISCLOSING THE INFORMATION
That, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the remainder of the business on the grounds that the items to be considered involve the likely discussion of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Management of Homeless Households in the Dover District
To consider the attached report of the Director of Finance, Housing and Community.
Members received a presentation from the Director of Finance, Housing and Community. He advised that some of the comparative data and project information were sensitive and should not, therefore, be disclosed.
The Group was advised that there had been an increase in homelessness presentations and acceptances by the Council. These, together with the increased use of temporary (i.e. Bed & Breakfast (B&B) and nightly paid) accommodation, the length of stays in what was expensive accommodation and a shortage of Council and private ‘move on’ (or permanent) accommodation had placed significant financial pressure on the Council. The cost of B&B and nightly accommodation fell largely on the General Fund, although homeless households or individuals accommodated in such accommodation would be able to claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit and, as such, the Council could recover some of these costs. Compounding the situation was the fact that the Council had not been very diligent in recovering charges associated with B&B accommodation and benefit payments.
Comparing data with other councils was difficult due to the lack of standardisation in data collection. However, a review undertaken by an independent consultant indicated that the Council was likely to be under-recording homelessness enquiries. This then distorted Dover’s figures in such a way that the ratio of acceptances to presentations was very high when compared with neighbouring authorities.
In response to Councillor N A G Richards, the Housing Options Manager estimated that there were 13 rough sleepers in Dover, an annual figure based on information gathered from Porchlight, the night reach shelter and the street pastor. It was acknowledged that some individuals did not wish to interact with the authority or receive help to address their situation.
The Head of Strategic Housing advised that no trend had been detected in more applicants coming from London. Most of those presenting were from the district or neighbouring authorities. There was anecdotal (but no hard) evidence that landlords were being offered better rates from London authorities.
To achieve improvements, internal processes had already been reviewed, and the use of home visits and family mediation would be increased. The Private Sector Housing team was also planning to hold a landlords’ forum in February to try and increase the amount of ‘move on’ accommodation available. Other measures included acceptances being approved at a more senior level and earlier intervention with landlords whose tenancies were coming to an end.
The Housing Options Manager added that more work needed to be done to educate people that council housing was limited and that, even if the Council found emergency accommodation for them, they would be expected to find their own permanent accommodation quickly. The Department for Communities and Local Government had set up a new advisory support team which was due to visit and provide support to Dover. A Senior Housing Options Officer had been recruited and was exploring various schemes and measures, including lodgers and cooperation with Ashford Borough Council. It was clarified that the Council had plans to establish its own ... view the full minutes text for item 7.