'Homeless will suffer' from pothole priorities
A senior councillor say the city council is getting its priorities wrong by putting pothole repairs over providing hostels for the homeless.
Former city council leader Ross Willmott says he is concerned about a planned £2.2 million cut to the authority's £6.6 million homelessness strategy by 2014-15.
The Labour politician said £1 million should be put back into the city's homelessness budget to avert the scheduled closure of hostels to save cash.
Council bosses said they wanted to restructure the service to focus on preventing homelessness in the first place rather than running an expensive "revolving door" hostel system where residents returned time and time again.
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Coun Willmott said: "I want to be clear, I think our proposed housing strategy is a good one but I am not certain it can be achieved under the weight of cuts we are being forced into. We do not have a choice about saving money, but we do have some freedom on how we do it.
"In my opinion, as a Labour-run council, our priority should be about helping the most vulnerable people, like the homeless.
"I know it is important we keep roads in good condition but I do think we are getting our priorities wrong.
"We are fixed on spending money on filling in potholes but I think we should be using money to provide food and shelter for people who have none. That, for me, is more important."
Coun Willmott is a member of the authority's adult social care and housing scrutiny commission, which has agreed a motion which proposes £1 million be restored to the budget. It will be considered by the council's executive, which is made up of city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and his team of assistants.
Assistant mayor in charge of homelessness strategy Andy Connelly said: "Scrutiny is entitled to make any recommendations it wants, which will be considered.
"It will be the case that the strategy will drive the budget and not the other way round.
"There will be concerns about the choices we make because this is a very important service and we have been put in a position where we do face very tough decisions.
"What we know is the strategy we have at the moment is not working and people are returning to hostels again and again. We need to help them get out of the cycle."
Coun Connelly said no decisions would be taken before a consultation ends on February 18.
A city council spokesman said: "The proposals aim to support people into independent living.
"We want to focus resources away from addressing homelessness after it happens to preventing it from happening at all. Therefore, we propose to build on preventative services. We also aim to develop the supply of private rented accommodation so that some people will not have to go into a hostel at all."