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Tuesday, 13th Feb 2018

Green amendment calls for property developers to fund homelessness prevention

At next week’s budget meeting at Bristol City Council, Green Councillor Carla Denyer will call on the Labour administration to increase emergency funding for some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol, and pay for it by raising charges on private property developments which block roads.

Councillor Denyer is proposing a budget amendment which would increase funding to the Council’s Local Crisis Prevention Fund, which was cut by the Labour administration last year by 70%. This fund makes small one-off emergency payments (vouchers for essentials such as food, toiletries, gas and electric) for those most in need, and provides essential household goods to those moving from temporary/supported accommodation (including those escaping domestic abuse or those formerly homeless) to more secure unfurnished tenancies. The amendment would pay for this by increasing charges for private developers that block the highway with skips or other construction work, bringing Bristol’s charges for this up to the level of other major UK cities.

Explaining the amendment, Councillor Denyer said:

“The premise of this amendment is simple: charge a small amount more to people who can easily afford to pay – property owners and developers – and use it to provide the essentials to those in deep poverty.

“The Council currently raises £228,000 per year in fees for blocking the highway with skips, scaffolding and hoardings. The level of these fees (only £60 per month for scaffolding, for example) is currently set by benchmarking against other Councils in the area. But the property market in Bristol bears little resemblance to the market in the rural areas of the South West, and has much more in common with the other major UK cities. So I have proposed to benchmark Bristol’s fees to the other 9 ‘Core Cities’, which would raise around another £100,000 per year, and use this money to reverse some of Labour’s damaging cut to the vital Local Crisis Prevention Fund.

“Since last year’s funding cut, 45% of applicants for emergency funding have been turned away – more than double the rate of the previous year. And as Universal Credit is rolled out, the demand is expected to increase further. On top of that, the new Homelessness Reduction Act increases councils’ responsibilities towards those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

“I hope Labour will put party politics aside and support this amendment – the levels of inequality and homelessness in our prosperous city are an embarrassment, and we must take every opportunity we can to tackle them.”

Cllr Denyer added that there would be positive knock-on benefits from the amendment – increasing charges on obstructive skips and scaffolding should encourage developers to complete works quicker, reducing highway obstructions and congestion. And increased levels of funding for the Local Crisis Prevention Fund would likely reduce future costs to the Council by preventing homelessness, helping people to live independently in their own homes and reducing the need for more intensive intervention by the Council.

In order to reduce the impact of the fee increase on individual residents carrying out low budget home improvements, Cllr Denyer has suggested that the Council introduce a fee scale that is lower for individual home improvements than for large scale developments.

Background information

-  At the previous budget (February 2017) Green Councillors proposed amendments which would have saved £1.7m and prevented Labour’s cuts to the Local Crisis Fund. These were rejected by the Labour majority: https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/bristol-greens-identify-additional-17m-to-save-vital-council-services

-   '55% cut to crisis fund “catastrophic” for domestic violence survivors' - The Bristol Cable, March 2017: https://thebristolcable.org/2017/03/50-cut-crisis-fund-catastrophic-domestic-violence-survivors/

- Full text of the amendment is available here.

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