Greenwich council warns cash to rehouse homeless during coronavirus crisis will run out by July

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

A town hall’s emergency funding for coronavirus measures – and especially housing the homeless – will run out by July, its finance chiefs say.

Greenwich council chiefs say they have huge concerns about what happens when the  Covid-19 cash of £17million is spent.

Now the borough’s new cabinet member for housing has written to ask the Government for clarity, and long-term support in housing the district’s homeless – 61 of whom have been living in emergency accommodation since the start of lockdown.

Cllr Anthony Okereke’s letter to the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, asked for funding to councils be provided so they can permanently house rough sleepers.

“A clear lesson from the coronavirus pandemic is that we can overcome homelessness when national, regional and local authorities come together and when there is the political will to do so,” Cllr Okereke wrote.

“The lockdown may have slowed the overall rise in homelessness but we have actually seen an increase in single people approaching us for housing support, and expect the overall rate to rise as we leave lockdown.

“I welcome the specialist taskforce that you have set up to lead the next phase of support, but it is important that the Government has a long-term strategy in place to support councils as the restrictions are lifted.

“We would particularly like clarity on what local authorities are to do with people with no recourse to public funds who have been housed during lockdown, but would ordinarily not be accommodated.”

Cllr Chris Kirby said he had “real concerns about the way the government have moved the goalposts when it comes to guaranteeing funding for local authorities”.

He said: “We’ve gone from money is no object – to inferences we’re on a splurge and spending money on things we don’t really need to be spending money on, which is absolutely incredible given the commitment that local government has made during this crisis.”

He said Government assumptions that councils would go back to operating in a “pre-Covid 19 financial world” from July is “just absolutely in the realms of fantasy”.

He said: “There needs to be additional tranches of funding from central Government, or councils up and down the country, not just us, will be dipping into reserve,” adding that Greenwich reserves “will not last the rest of the year” if relied upon.

Pictured top: Greenwich town hall, and councillors Anthony Okereke and Chris Kirby


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