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Leicester City Council rejects calls to scrap budget cuts which will hit homeless

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Calls to scrap budget cuts which will reduce the number of hostel beds for homeless people in Leicester have been rejected. Last night members of the Labour-run council took part in a debate triggered by a petition signed by 1,590 people wanting to stop the authority slashing £2.2 million from its £6.6 million budget for tackling homelessness. Under the move some hostels will be closed and 200 bed spaces for homeless people will be lost. The petition, presented by David Brazier, chief executive of Shelter Housing Aid and Research project (Sharp) called on the council "to do everything it can to prevent homelessness in the city". It went on to urge the council to maintain its support for all the local charities involved in providing for the homeless while maintaining the number of bed spaces and existing budgets. A packed public gallery at the Leicester Town Hall jeered City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby when he said he could not support a motion by Labour city councillor Ross Willmott to put £1 million back into the homelessness budget. Assistant mayor for housing Andy Connelly was also booed when they said they could not accept the petition because of its wording. Coun Connelly told the meeting: "We have to recognise the (current) homelessness strategy, while it is good - it is not good enough. "We do have difficult decisions to take. "It is an emotive, challenging and difficult issue." He said the existing "revolving door" system was failing homeless people because it did not provide them with secure long-term housing. "We have too many people in hostels for too long. "The reality is we need to see if we can provide a service better. "To accept the petition is to continue with a strategy that, in my view, is failing too many homeless people in the city." He added: "It will not be the budget that drives the strategy but the strategy that drives the budget." The council voted to note the petition rather take the action it requested but some Labour members raised concerns. Coun Willmott said he thought proposed strategy would be unachievable with the limited budget available. Coun Paul Westley said: "You don't just cut bed spaces (for people) without having something concrete for them to go to." Other Labour members said reduced funding from the Tory and Liberal Democrat Government was forcing them into passing cuts harming vulnerable people. Lib Dem city councillor Nigel Porter said: "I share the great concerns that have been raised by the 1,500 who have signed this petition. This proposal will have a detrimental impact on the people of this city." He criticised Sir Peter's plans to spend £4 million on his Jubilee Square project while cutting other budgets. He said: "1,500 people signed this petition. They deserve to be listened to and the council needs to abandon this proposal." Mr Brazier said under the new strategy small charities would struggle to successfully tender for city council contracts to work with homeless people. He said the proposed strategy was too ambitious with the council seeking to take control of responsibility for work it had not previously controlled."

Leicester City Council rejects calls to scrap budget cuts which will hit homeless


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