Councillor Pearce reported on the Communities and Homelessness Prevention areas of his Portfolio, detailing the issues relating to achieving the Council’s published priorities, major ongoing programmes of work, issues impacting delivery, financial performance and budget requirements and potential changes being considered.
The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-
· the severe weather protocol encompasses all conditions including heat waves as with the recent summer and wet and windy periods as well as cold winter spells. Eighteen beds are available to accommodate rough sleepers this winter and the two rough sleeping pods, following repair and insulation provision, are to be relocated from the King William Street Car Park to a location in St. David’s;
· the Exeter Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2023-27 would be reported to Executive in February informed by the work of the Homelessness Task and Finish Working Group. The City Council had won Government funding for the Rough Sleepers Initiative and was securing additional units through the purchase of new properties, securing long term leases on others and buying back properties previously sold under Right To Buy. Fifteen units, primarily flats, were now available and a further five would come on line. With an expanding University, Exeter suffered from higher than average house prices and lower than average wages;
· it was anticipated that the impact of budget cost savings on the housing service as well support given to those on Housing Benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit from the General Fund would be minimal;
· the Council and its partners including St. Petrock’s, CoLab and Julian House through the Assertive Homeless Outreach Team and in liaison with the Police undertook constant engagement with rough sleepers and the street attached to monitor the position and ensure that the data base was up to date;
· 22 rough sleepers in Exeter had been recorded at the recent National Count compared with eight in 2021;
· informal discussions had been undertaken with partners and the voluntary sector on the introduction of the Exeter Community Lottery prior to report to Executive on 29 November 2022. The proposals would be considered at Council on 13 December 2022, after which it was anticipated that a formal consultation process would be undertaken;
· some 115 local authorities had introduced very successful lotteries, for example the Bedfordshire Lottery raised £200,000 a year. A conservative target for the Exeter Community Lottery of raising between £40,000-£80,000 was anticipated, based on 2.5% of the city’s population contributing through this incentivised giving scheme;
· the Exeter Community Lottery would supplement and add value to the existing Exeter Grants Programme and was a sustainable way of supporting communities and enabling good causes to help themselves. It could benefit a number of smaller organisations which did not possess the resources to seek support from funding sources;
· faith groups who played an important part in community life but were opposed to the principle of lotteries could benefit from applying for support through the Exeter Grants programme which would be supplemented by the money raised through the lottery. Similarly, those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, could also be supported and there were robust mechanisms embedded within the scheme;
· no additional cost would be involved other than the anticipated three hours a week by Council officers in helping the administration. The scheme would be run by an established lottery manager; and
· Exeter had a tradition of hosting asylum seekers such as those from Syria, Afghanistan and now Ukraine. The Government was meeting the accommodation costs for the latter, but a review of the system was needed to broaden support for all asylum seeking groups.