Scrutiny committee concerned about impact of housing services cuts in West Sussex

The protesters outside County Hall
The protesters outside County Hall

Councillors have raised concerns about plans to cut more than £6m of housing support from some of the most vulnerable people in West Sussex.

The county council currently funds housing related support for people who are vulnerable or at risk of homelessness.

Bryan Turner, chairman of the West Sussex Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee

Bryan Turner, chairman of the West Sussex Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee

But in August its Forward Plan questioned whether the system was sustainable and proposed stopping all support contracts from April 2019.

The response from the public was phenomenal, with more than 9,000 people signing one petition, pleading with the council to change its mind.

On Thursday (September 27), members of the health and adult social care select committee were the first to discuss the proposals in public – and they had a number of concerns.

Dr Kate O’Kelly (Lib Dem, Midhurst) said her ‘jaw dropped’ when she read the papers, while Ann Bridges (Con, Lancing) said she was ‘most concerned’.

It will fall to Amanda Jupp, cabinet member for adults and health, to have the final say, in December.

In the meantime, the council will speak to organisations such as Crawley Open House and the YMCA DownsLink Group to find out what impact the cuts would have on the users and their communities.

Members questioned whether there would be enough time to fully assess the data – and there were concerns that the final decision should not fall to just one person.

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East), leader of the Lib Dem group, said the proposals should be included in the Budget process, which  starts in November.

He added: “I think it’s fundamentally quite wrong to take this decision away from members of the county council and for a cabinet member to take this decision.”

While HASC has no decision-making powers, members made a number of suggestions.

They included the need to hear from the people who actually used the services, with support provided for those who required help understanding the process.

They also asked to hear from health bodies, the voluntary sector, the probation service and police at the committee’s November meeting.

Speaking after the meeting, HASC chairman Bryan Turner (Con, Broadwater) said: “My first reaction when I opened the formal plan was my jaw dropped a bit.

“It was a significant cut to services in my view and the decision at that time looked as if was going to be taken rather quickly.

“I am reassured we have managed to slow it down so we can take full consideration of what the impact of such a cut might be.”

Before the meeting started a demonstration against the cuts was held outside County Hall.

Related stories:

County council leader’s sleepless nights over massive cost savings

Cutting income for West Sussex adults receiving arranged care ‘mean spirited’

Coalition of charities to oppose cuts to housing support funding

Council leader ‘won’t be complicit’ in housing support cuts

Petition launched to stop cuts to housing and support for young people in West Sussex

Thousands rally behind Crawley Open House

Rough sleeping will increase if charity’s funding is cut

More rough sleepers on streets if cuts go ahead charity Stonepillow warns

Cutting funding for domestic abuse charity ‘would be catastrophic’

Cuts could force closure of 206 homes for vulnerable young people in West Sussex