A city cuts millions from its homelessness budget just days after a homeless man’s death

Tom Wall

Birmingham City Council revealed on 8 December it may have to cut £10m from its budget for homelessness services. This announcement comes just nine days after rough sleeper Chiriac Inout died in the city centre on the coldest night of the year so far.

Inout’s body was discovered by two other homeless men on 30 November. The men were sleeping next to him in a car park on a night the temperature dropped to -6°C.

The inquest into his death began on 6 December. But this hasn’t stopped The Sun from speculating about the man’s alleged drug taking.

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Birmingham and rough sleeping

Rough sleeping is on the increase in Birmingham. The official count recorded nine people sleeping rough on Birmingham’s streets in autumn 2010. But by 2015, the last available figures, it had quadrupled to 36.

The council’s budget consultation document, which was released on 8 December, states [pdf] that it will have to cut tens of millions of pounds from its supporting people budget by 2021. This includes services for homeless people, victims of domestic abuse, and care leavers.

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Council leader John Clancy blamed dwindling government funding and growing demand. He said:

Birmingham City Council is facing an extremely tough financial landscape against a backdrop of continuing severe cuts in Government grant. We have already taken around £590 million out of our budget plans since 2010/11 – this includes having had to address an unprecedented 34 per cent reduction in our Government grant – and we expect to have to find around a further £180 million by 2021…

It is inevitable in an age of austerity that unpalatable decisions have to be taken about the services we can continue to pay for, and those areas where the council, reluctantly, must withdraw support.

Continued austerity

The Labour-controlled council grant from central government has fallen by 34% since 2010.

The city has already cut £590m by shedding 40% of its workforce and reducing services since 2010. Now it has to find another £78.4m worth of savings by 2019.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has done nothing to reverse the cuts imposed by his predecessor, George Osborne. And the Local Government Association has warned that councils still face a £5.8bn funding gap by 2020.

Clancy told The Birmingham Mail that the council would continue to try and deliver the affected services. He said:

One of the things we’re doing is to try to reshape the way that particular budget is spent. Just this one particular preventative sector of the budget, we are going to commission in a different kind of way.

Homeless charities, however, warned the proposed cuts would have a devastating impact on Birmingham’s growing homeless population. Jean Templeton, chief executive at city homeless charity St Basils, said:

This level of proposed cuts for the supporting people fund would have a devastating impact on our ability to provide safe, good quality supported accommodation for vulnerable and homeless young people.

A wider problem

Homelessness is also increasing elsewhere. Recorded rough sleeping in England jumped 30% last year, when 3,569 people were recorded on the streets. This is double the level recorded in 2010. Furthermore, there were 114,790 applications for homeless assistance from councils in 2015/16, a 11% rise since 2010/11.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid claimed “one person without a home is one too many” when he announced a £10m scheme to tackle rough sleeping in October.

But this doesn’t begin to make up for the money the government is taking away from councils that provide vital services to some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Get Involved!

– Support charities actively combating homelessness in the UK, such as Crisis, Shelter, and Emmaus.

– Join anti-austerity campiagns, such as The People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

– Support groups seeking to help those suffering from addiction and other mental health issues, such as Lifeline and Action on Addiction.

Featured image via Flickr

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