From: Paul Courtel, Amherst Road, Bexhill
I’m delighted Rother District Council appears to be finally waking up to things that it should have done years ago.
Following a blisteringly critical report from the Local Government Ombudsman, it’s purchased its first unit of temporary accommodation and is aiming to purchase others.
This has longer term financial benefits as the purchase cost is mitigated by lower running costs than has been the case by accommodating vulnerable residents outside the borough, sometimes as far as north Kent.
It also means that families are less likely to be separated. There’s also a greater prospect of continuity with GPs, hospital services and schools.
The CHART (Connecting Hastings and Rother Together) initiative, supported by Hastings Borough Council and the European Union, is aimed at supporting disadvantaged people to prepare for work, find and keep work. This is also welcome.
However, there seem to be several factors working in a contrary direction. First, the massive delays in obtaining Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payments and other benefits.
The slightest error, or the alleged non-receipt of a document, sends an applicant to the back of the queue, causing considerable hardship. The rise in demand for foodbanks is strongly connected with that.
Conservative-controlled Rother Council has added to this hardship by requiring every household, to pay some Council Tax, causing greater pressure on those struggling to heat their home, eat, buy toiletries and dress the children for school.
By contrast, Labour-controlled Hastings, equally hit by the ongoing loss of rate support grant from central government, has been able to continue to exempt the poorest families from paying Council Tax.
Third, the closure of the out of hours GP service in Bexhill for most of the year places further strain on those without a car at a time when they are unwell.
Fourth, street homeless people are being moved on by the police (also now controlled by a Conservative Police Commissioner) with the threat of a £100 fine which they would be unable to pay.
Moving on the most deprived and unfortunate seems to me to be inhuman. It’s not the way to eradicate street homelessness from Rother.
Finally, if a homeless or temporary-housed person or family are found permanent accommodation, they are offered a loan, repayable out of benefits or from their very low earnings, for their deposit and first month’s rent. How are they then able to buy a bed, or other essentials with which to furnish their home or cook a meal?