Northampton Borough Council is having to delve into its reserves to help fund a projected £1.5million overspend on homelessness.
A latest monthly report focusing on the council’s finances, discussed at this week’s cabinet (Wednesday, January 16) shows that the overall revenue budget from the general fund is currently forecasting an overspend of just over £2million. And a large chunk of that overspend, roughly three quarters, is down to homelessness.
The report, which was read by cabinet members, says: “High levels of homelessness, together with the severe shortage of affordable rented housing, have resulted in a sharp increase in the council’s use of temporary accommodation and the amount of time that homeless households are required to wait until they are offered settled housing.”
Speaking at the meeting, Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet member for finance, Councillor Brandon Eldred, said that the money was coming from the authority’s reserves. The full amount currently stashed away was not disclosed at the meeting.
Councillor Eldred said: “The money is coming from reserves so that if anything like this crops up then we have the funds there so that people don’t go homeless. It’s for a rainy day and that rainy day is today. It doesn’t bother me spending that money on tackling homelessness, but we do have to make sure we have measures in place for the future. It’s been a difficult year for the homeless community.”
The use of reserves was a financial stance that Northamptonshire County Council has been heavily criticised for over recent years, and it totally used up its reserves in the last financial year to try and balance its budget.
Although there is no indication that the borough council is in any financial difficulties, the use of reserves will no doubt be of concern to finance officers as the homelessness crisis only seems to be gathering in pace in Northampton.
The borough council’s head of housing, Phil Harris, told cabinet that a family waiting for a home three years ago would have typically been on the waiting list for three months. Today, they would likely be waiting for a year, he said.