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Talks to solve £4m fund cut

HOUSING boss Trevor Bence has said he is worried about ensuring rough sleepers around Bognor Regis are unaffected by spending cutbacks.

 

Cllr Bence is cabinet member for residential services at Arun District Council. He is involved in talks to try to overcome the loss of £4m from the county council towards housing provision in West Sussex in 2020.

 

He said: “At the moment, we have no answers to this short notice that the county council are withdrawing funding and it’s worrying. We are in an ongoing dialogue about how that service will be funded moving forward.”

 

The current service is provided by charities such as Stonepillow and Bognor Housing Trust in Bognor Regis and Turning Tides in Littlehampton.

 

“We currently have no facilities to support that work and no expertise to support that. I really recognise that we need Stonepillow, the trust and Turning Tides and we have an ongoing dialogue which will get us there.

 

“We have a breathing space and I have certain ideas and, if I survive past the May elections, I would like to see how these groups could raise funds outside the county council’s support,” said Cllr Bence (C, Aldwick E).

 

His comments at Arun’s housing and customer services working group last week were prompted by a question from Cllr Francis Oppler (LD, Orchard).

 

He said: “The reality is that the county council is withdrawing a significant amount of funding. They have made clear that they think it is the responsibility of all the district and borough councils to continue the funding. What budget allocation is being put in place for this? We know it is going to happen.”

 

Satnam Kaur, Arun’s group head of residential services, said: “We are working closely with the county council to assess the impact and work on possibilities to preserve the current funding in terms of provision in our area through Stonepillow and Turning Tides.”

 

The county council would provide £700,000 interim funding for 2019/20 while work continued ahead of the total removal of the funding the following year, she said.

 

Arun’s community manager, Georgina Bouette, told the working group an official count of rough sleepers had shown 18 individuals in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton earlier in the winter.

 

Separate figures from a group which comprises Arun and other partners to discuss individuals in street communities showed 31 rough sleepers from April to September last year.

 

This compared to 34 for all the previous year and 16 in 2016/17.

 

She said: “Noticeable trends are emerging from the data, including the increase of rough sleepers in Arun and, critically, the expotential increase of individuals using class A drugs.

 

“Within this data set, all rough sleepers regularly use class A substances, typically heroin and crack cocaine.”

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