South Hams district council (SHDC) has joined more than 100 local authorities in a letter calling on the government to address the homelessness crisis.
Eastbourne borough council and the district councils’ network last week announced details of a letter calling on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to address the homelessness and temporary accommodation crisis.
The statement said the crisis “threatens local government's financial sustainability and the services upon which England's most vulnerable people rely”.
SHDC is one of 108 district councils led by Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and Independents (representing two-thirds of all local authorities in the country) that have signed the letter.
The statement comes just days after the former housing minister’s controversial comments about homeless people. Suella Braverman, who was sacked this week by prime minister Rishi Sunak, claimed rough sleeping was a "lifestyle choice" and proposed new laws to restrict the use of tents by homeless people on the streets.
However, on Tuesday the government announced that it would be shelving the proposals.
According to the department of levelling up, housing and communities, the cost of temporary accommodation to councils reached £1.7bn last year and is rapidly rising.
District councils are often the administrative tier closest to communities as they oversee such services as housing, leisure centres and waste collection.
But they have warned that the rising cost of temporary accommodation has hit them particularly hard due to a large proportion of their budgets being devoted to housing.
In addition to asking for a meeting with the chancellor, the letter urged six key actions, among which is a call to raise local housing allowance rates to cover at least 30 per cent of local market rent, as well as providing £100m additional funding for discretionary housing payments and a £150m top-up to the homelessness prevention grant for the period 2024-25.
Moreover, district councils are asking to review the cap for housing benefit subsidy rate for homelessness placements and urging long-term funding to increase the supply of social housing.
Cllr Denise O’Callaghan, SHDC’s lead member for housing, said: “Providing temporary homes for those who find themselves in difficult circumstances is an absolute priority for us. The costs to councils of supplying this type of accommodation have risen dramatically, and although we try, where possible, to ease the pressure through other programmes, a lack of funding affects our ability to address the root cause of homelessness. This cannot continue.”
Councillor Hannah Dalton, the district councils' network housing spokesperson, said the fact that 119 council leaders from all political groups had joined up “demonstrates that we are in an emergency situation, right across the country”.
She said: "Councils simply do not have the money to cope with this surge of demand for temporary accommodation and without action from Jeremy Hunt they will have no option but to cut services. Such is the scale of the problem that some councils will find themselves effectively bankrupt.
"Unless action is taken in the Autumn Statement, society's most vulnerable people will continue to be hit hardest - the lifeline that their councils offer them will collapse and there will be a knock-on impact on other public services, including the NHS.
“Funding councils' work properly will prevent homelessness now, easing the need for public services like the NHS to spend huge amounts dealing with the consequences of homelessness in future."
Councillor Stephen Holt, the leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: "I have no doubt that the chancellor and the prime minister understand that this is threatening the very future of services that support and maintain hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents. They cannot allow the safety net we provide to fail; they must act now.
"I am also grateful that so many authorities have responded so quickly and positively to our joint letter. We are all in agreement - this is a national crisis.”