Strategy plan for welfare reforms

FAR-REACHING welfare reforms and extensive government funding cuts means Eastbourne Borough Council is having to plan new strategies to cope.

The council says it is starting work on a number of new policies to tackle homelessness in the town and says it is happy with the achievements it has made already.

Despite the recession, 30 new council homes, the first in 20 years, were built in Eastbourne, a new purpose-built women’s refuge has been completed, an outdated sheltered housing scheme has been converted to create 18 homes for local older people and 127 empty homes have been brought back into use.

In addition, the council says it is pleased with the continued success of the Housing Options Service which prevented 375 vulnerable households from becoming homeless, there is a 32 per cent reduction in the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation, there was a successful bid to attract £3.9m in government funding to improve council sheltered housing and the time to process housing benefit claims has been reduced to 18 days.

At a council cabinet meeting on Wednesday, members approved the development of a new housing strategy to run up to 2016 in light of what is being described as extensive government funding cuts and far reaching welfare benefit reforms, many part of the new Localism Bill.

Councillor Margaret Bannister, portfolio holder for Community, said, “The council’s current housing and homelessness strategies have been highly successful in delivering significant achievements to keep people out of temporary accommodation and ultimately off the streets.

“However, due to a raft of proposed changes to national policy and some severe funding cuts, we are once again facing several challenges that demand a new strategic approach.

“The preparation of new strategies will enable is to develop solutions to tackle the effect of welfare reforms and other funding cuts.”