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Suffolk County Council budget cuts could lead to hundreds of people being homeless, charities warn

Several charities have warned budget cuts could lead to hundreds of people in Suffolk becoming homeless.

On Tuesday, a letter co-signed by six charities was submitted to Suffolk County Council to express disappointment ahead of last night’s budget-setting meeting.

The letter urged the county council to rethink cuts to Housing Related Support (HRS) amounting to £1m in the next financial year and £2m in 2025/26, warning it would directly impact the lives of 700 people across the county.

Despite this, councillors decided to pass the proposals, while holding back £1.5m to help mitigate any initial impacts, as part of a £64.7m savings package which prioritises statutory responsibilities.

Although there was consensus on the importance of the service, there were disagreements about what it provided.

Cllr Richard Rout, who is responsible for the budget, said the current administration disagreed with fears that the cut would lead to an increase in homelessness.

He added: “We know that every service we deliver as a council means something to someone and no decision we take is ever taken lightly.”

“When we prioritise those services, difficult decisions have to be made about all of the other non-statutory services we provide, and HRS is one of those.”

After the meeting, Glen Chisholm, a former Ipswich mayor, councillor, and project worker for Sanctuary, a housing and care provider, said the support was inherently tied to the provision of beds, although these were paid for by a person’s housing benefit claim.

He said: “The whole point of the support is to stop the revolving door of homelessness and break behaviours, it literally saves lives.

“It’s all tied together in such a way that if you break it up, it’ll just fail — my fear is that certain people will spiral out of control.”

Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care, said despite the decision, the council would still provide excellent care.

She added: “This council exists to provide the services we are legally required to provide first and foremost, everything else which does not fall under legislative requirement is optional.

“While I hear the protests, I feel the fear and anger across the county, I return to that point, faced with the financial challenges of today, we have no choice.”

The move saw fierce opposition from members of opposing political parties.

East Suffolk leader, Cllr Caroline Topping, said: “The residents don’t care who provides these services, they just want them delivered and not have elected representatives bickering. Having to explain to some of the most vulnerable people in Suffolk that they will soon not have a bed, that’s the consequences of this cut.”

The opposition comments, however, sparked suggestions from several Conservative councillors that district councils should pick up the bill due to their statutory requirement to deal with homelessness.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr David Beavan, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for housing, said he had been saddened by the decision but promised to work with district leaders to pick up the slack.

He added: “It’s not saving any money, saving pennies now will cost pounds later on. We’ll pick up the baton as much as we can because we can’t afford not to do it.”