Councils demand 'immediate intervention' by government to tackle the homelessness crisis

ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt joins a family as they're almost left on the street due to a lack of social housing, while another struggle to cope in a tiny studio flat

More than 150 local councils in England have demanded “immediate intervention” by the government to tackle the homelessness crisis, as they warn the growing cost of providing temporary accommodation threatens “to overwhelm our budgets.” 

In a letter sent to the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, seen by ITV News, the District Councils Network say the rise of the number of homeless families needing emergency housing is “unprecedented” and without financial support “the existence of our safety net is under threat” - leaving councils with no option but to withdraw services. 

The letter was drafted after 158 councils met at an emergency summit to discuss the crisis.

They have demanded a meeting with Mr Hunt ahead of the Autumn Statement and have made a list of policy changes and funding requests they believe will help relieve the pressure on the housing system. 

They include:

  • Raising local housing allowance rates in line with the real cost of rent

  • Extra funding to tackle homelessness through grants and discretionary payment

  • More long-term funding and flexibility to build more social housing

The latest government data shows local councils in England are now spending £1.74 billion a year on temporary accommodation, up 9% in a year.

In 2018/19, they were spending £1.08 billion. 

With a chronic shortage of social housing available, councils are being forced to spend more and more housing families in hotels, hostels and bed and breakfast accommodation. 

ITV News has spent the last six months reporting on the crisis, meeting working people and their children trapped in temporary accommodation with nowhere else to go, and schools having to step in to help homeless families find places to live.

In the letter to the chancellor, councils warn they are breaking point.  

It reads: “The ensuing increase in costs is a critical risk to the financial sustainability of many local authorities and we urge you to act swiftly to ensure we can continue our vital work.

"The pressure is particularly acute for district councils because housing costs constitute a far bigger proportion of our overall expenditure.  

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Credit: PA

“Without urgent intervention, the existence of our safety net is under threat. The danger is that we have no option but to start withdrawing services which currently help so many families to avoid hitting crisis point.

"There will also be a knock-on impact on other cherished council services, which councils could also have to scale back, and on other parts of the public sector – such as the NHS – which will be left to pick up the pieces. 

“Some areas also experience added pressure due to the placement of asylum seekers in local hotels and other temporary accommodation.” 

A government spokesperson said: “Local authorities have seen an increase in Core Spending Power of up to £5.1 billion or 9.4% in cash terms on 2022/23, with almost £60 billion available for local government in England.

“We are committed to reducing the need for temporary accommodation by preventing homelessness before it occurs in the first place, which is why we are providing councils with £1 billion through the Homelessness Prevention Grant over three years.

“We are also delivering a fairer private rented sector for tenants and landlords through the Renters Reform Bill which includes abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.”

If you or someone you know is homeless, facing homelessness, or want to get in touch with us about your housing issue, please email us at housingstories@itv.com

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