READER LETTER: Bassetlaw Council - Response to claims by Hope chief executive

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Letter sent to the chairman of trustees at HOPE Community Services:

With regard to the recent advertising feature by Alan Diggles on behalf of Hope in the May 27 edition of the Worksop Guardian.

Firstly, we wish to point out that Bassetlaw District Council’s primary objective is to meet the needs of homeless people within the district and this will remain the case going forward.

We are however, very concerned about the serious allegations made publicly by Mr Diggles in the recent advertising article in local newspapers, which we assume were run past trustees and signed off as representing the views of yourselves as a group.

The article is factually incorrect and makes a number of inflammatory and misleading allegations.

Firstly, in relation to the council’s statutory duty as a housing authority, we have two key statutory duties. The first duty is under section 188 of the Housing Act 1996 which deals with the provision of interim accommodation for people in priority need.

Whilst we have used Hope to accommodate people under this provision in the past, this was done simply as a referral through choice, not obligation, and other options are available to the council and will be in the future, which we will continue to use.

Secondly, there is a duty to provide temporary accommodation for people accepted as homeless and in priority need. However it is important to point out that in the last year only one person has been sent to Hope by Bassetlaw District Council under this duty and again we have other options available and will continue to use them.

Importantly, during the period April 1 2015 to March 31 2016, we only referred eight individuals to Hope.

We are also somewhat surprised that at no time has Mr Diggles discussed the way in which the council discharges its homelessness duties with staff within the housing needs team, or with senior officers at the council.

It is also important to recall that Hope is able to claim housing benefit on occupied beds and as the council is no longer asking for any beds to be reserved, these can be occupied as demand arises rather than having to wait until 2pm in case the council requested their use.

Therefore, in relation to the assertion by Mr Diggles we are clear that there is no change in our ability to meet our statutory duty, so the statement that we are failing to deliver our statutory responsibilities is factually incorrect and should be publicly withdrawn.

Turning to the other key point within the article concerning fundraising. The council has collated information about the grant monies paid to Hope since 2006 which it is happy to share, but this confirms that there is no ongoing commitment to fund Hope on an annual basis.

Some reference has been made to the obligations set out within a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and therefore I feel it is useful if this is explored in more detail. On November 17 2006, the council paid a lump sum of £60,129.95 and at this point a SLA was signed to ensure guaranteed access to four bed spaces a day if needed.

In December 2013, the council was again approached and although ongoing funding was not provided at that time, it was agreed that the council would make a one-off payment of £20,000 to offset losses in that year. This was paid on January 24 2014. The SLA was renewed at that time. As can be seen from this document, there is no commitment by the council to provide any ongoing funding.

The fact that the council does not provide money was further recognised by Hope in the letter which was submitted when they applied for funding for 15 Queen Street.

Bassetlaw therefore remains at a loss to understand why Mr Diggles continues to assert that the council has withdrawn funding to assist in resolving this issue. The council would request that Hope’s accounts are made publicly available to show what grants have been received from Bassetlaw and when.

As we have made it clear previously, we would wish to continue a dialogue with yourselves about how we can continue to meet the needs of the vulnerable homeless people in the district. I would rather this was done face to face than through the pages of the local media. However, I do not see how Mr Diggles can now be involved in the process given his misleading, inaccurate and inflammatory remarks in the recent advertising feature.

It goes without saying that a copy of this letter is being sent to Bassetlaw’s elected members, and the Worksop Guardian to counter the regrettable tactics that have been employed in this matter.

Coun Steve Scotthorne

Portfolioholder for housing,

Bassetlaw District Council