Cllr Martin Rowley spoke at City of York Council's Health, Housing and Audit Social Care Scrutiny Committee regarding the decision to not renew the Salvation Army's contract to assist with homelessness.
At the meeting he said:
Thank you Chair.
Members, I wish to speak to you speak to you about my concerns regarding the report and recommendations made in agenda item 3, and in particular The Update Report on Homelessness.
Firstly. Me and my group fully supports the administration in their efforts to reduce homelessness within the City, and will broadly support efforts to address this issue going forward.
We also recognise the budget shortfall, and will work with the administration where we can, in their efforts to reduce this shortfall.
However, this report into the provision of a homelessness and rough sleeping strategy and the proposed actions to achieve this are not actions that I or my group can support for a number of reasons.
The report in Annex A lists the achievements of the current strategy for 2022/2023. The receipt of funding from DHLUC for £215,234 in 2019/20 helped to shape and fund the Rough Sleepers Initiative. A further £1,329,100 was secured in 2022. These funds have been used for a varied range of services and service providers. One of these service providers was the Salvation Army Early Intervention Team. This team played a critical part in highlighting, engaging and signposting rough sleepers through the system, and worked with other agencies and the local authority to achieve this. A decision referred to at the bottom of page 31 of the report mentions the ending of the Salvation Army contract. The services they were providing now being picked up by other agencies, use of the housing stock within CYC, and an increase in the CYC navigation team. Effectively bring this vital and specialised service ‘in house’.
I find it incredible that a decision to increase the spending of the local authority by bringing a service ‘in house’, can be more cost effective over the long term than contracting the service out to a skilled and reputable organisation such as the Salvation Army.
It is clear that any funding secured from Central Government is ‘temporary’. While the local authority has been successful in securing funding for the current initiative, it seems short sighted to believe that this solution will be future proof.
Should future governments change their policy and funding arrangements, then any commitments made by CYC would have to be funded by CYC. This could potentially result in the loss of CYC staff, and the related costs of redundancy that go hand in hand with this kind of move.
It is far easier to end a contract with an external provider than it is to undergo redundancies and restructures internally should the funding stream cease to exist in it’s current format.
I would urge the committee to reject the report, and request that the executive member for Health, Housing & Adult Social Care re-visit the provision homelessness services within the City, and undertake an independent review of how services can best be funded and provided. In the interim, a temporary extension to the current arrangements and contracts should be put in place.
Thank you Chair and members.