Short-termism in making cuts will prove to be expensive in the long-term

As we approach the start of 2015, the political classes are getting very excited about the elections in May. I share their excitement. These elections are the most unpredictable I can recall.

In Brighton we have the possibility of having a referendum on Council Tax, adding to the excitement, or should I say the uncertainty.

I am asked at this time of year for my predictions for the new year. This year I have written something for the magazine, housing24, which will be published in its January edition.

What is most predictable is how unpredictable many things will be. Will there be a repeat of coalition government? And if so, which parties will be involved? Will there be a majority administration in Brighton and Hove? And if so, which party will win 27 or more seats in May?

Whoever wins, nationally and locally, will be handed a poisoned chalice because each of the main parties has committed itself to continue with austerity, albeit at a different pace. In Brighton and Hove cuts of an unprecedented scale will be required. How the new administration responds could change the social landscape for a generation.

I am particularly concerned about the loss of funding for, or wholesale cuts in funding to, services that prevent homelessness. Some services might be seen as addressing acute need, with recipients having low or medium support needs. The risk, as I see it, is that such services will be reduced, understandable, in favour of services meeting the needs of those requiring high levels of care and support.

This is, of course, a false economy. At BHT we have a particular service that prevents homelessness for around 550 households each year. Few of these clients have high support needs, but without our support, their low level needs would soon become medium, and their medium support needs would soon become high. Yet it is unlikely that planning is happening to increase services for more people with rapidly increasing needs.

I am not saying that all 550 will end up becoming homeless or developing high support needs, but many will. The cost of meeting their needs will dwarf the current cost of providing their current needs.

And this does not factor in the impact and cost to their families, friends, landlords, and the other services that will, inevitably, have to pick up the pieces.


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