Councils warn real cuts go deeper than savings wanted by government

Some English local authorities face cuts in their Supporting
People budgets of up to 10 per cent – four times the efficiency
saving prescribed by the government.

Hampshire Council is having to cut £3.2m of its £33.4m
Supporting People budget in 2004-5 because of changes made earlier
in the year by the government in the way the programme was

Oldham Council fears it will lose £1m of its £8.7m
budget, while another council in the south east, which asked not to
be named, fears it will lose around 7.5 per cent of its
£30m-plus budget.

In February, the government announced that all councils would need
to make savings of 2.5 per cent in their Supporting People budgets
for 2004-5 and that there would be no increase to take into account
inflation in this year’s allocations.

It followed a review of the programme by the Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister, which found that the £1.8bn paid for
Supporting People in 2003-4 was too high.

But some councils are saying the government has underestimated the
level of cuts they will need to make to keep within their

Alan Hagger, Supporting People manager in Hampshire, said that on
top of cuts to meet the efficiency targets, the authority faced
£1.6m of additional costs to run new schemes set up with
capital funding last year and increased demand. He said the council
would be forced to cap the amount it spent on clients.

Poor data at root of programme shortfall

The government underestimated the full cost of housing-related
support under the Supporting People programme because of a lack of
quality data on housing and support services provided by local
authorities before 2000, the latest Supporting People review

Most services under the transitional housing benefit scheme were
originally hidden within the overall cost of housing benefit, the
Office of The Deputy Prime Minister’s review published earlier this
week finds. Its aim was to identify why exchequer costs rose from
£880m for England in April 2002 to £1.4bn in December
2002 and £1.8bn in April 2003.

An earlier review into the funding increase, published in February,
accused councils of cost shunting, commandeering Supporting People
money to pay for services that were previously paid for by other
budgets (news, page 10, 19 February).

However, although the latest review acknowledges that local
authorities had used the uncapped transitional housing benefit
scheme to support other government policies, it says the move had
been recognised and encouraged by government.

It adds that a late development of services by local authorities
that were “confused and reluctant” to develop until they were
confident about the funding stream contributed to a low uptake at
the beginning.

– Supporting People: Review of the Development of the Policy
and Costs of Housing-related Support

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