A STREET outreach service for homeless people has been saved at the 11th hour after Swindon Council scrapped proposals to axe a charity’s £20,000 grant.
The Conservative administration revealed in December that it planned to stop the grant to homelessness charity Threshold Housing Link, as part of a bid to close an estimated £15m budget gap in 2013/14.
At the time, Threshold’s leaders said it would threaten the service, which they believe is vital to tackle homelessness, and they met the council to make a case for retaining all or some of the funding before the full council agrees the final budget on Thursday, February 21.
Yesterday council leader Rod Bluh revealed he had scrapped the plans on the basis that the vital service worked with individuals who the council might not necessarily be aware of, and who would otherwise increase costs for the council.
He said the Conservative group would seek to amend the budget on Thursday to strike out the proposed cut and, in the meantime, they would work to save the £20,000 elsewhere.
He said: “Threshold said there’s a strong case for why the removal of that budget wouldn’t benefit the council.
“Having looked at it, we have decided it was not a safe decision.
“So I decided to reverse it and work with them over the next 12 months about what each service does and how we can work with them.
“I cannot guarantee anything going forward, given the challenges we have got.
“Nothing is guaranteed, but the fact we have listened and been persuaded by the arguments puts them in a stronger position next time around.
“It’s evidence that we do listen, that consultation isn’t a device to do what we’ve already decided.
“And sometimes it makes a difference and if people can place a strong argument, they’re listened to, they can get the right results.”
Last week, Threshold revealed to the Adver that the number of people sleeping rough in the town centre had hit an all time high, with the street outreach team reporting they were aware of 20 rough sleepers on Wednesday, January 30.
Cher Sawyer-Smith, the chief executive, said the charity presented to the council up-to-date statistics on homelessness collected by the street outreach team, plus case studies, and had also spoken to councillors of various parties and officers, who had helped their case.
She said: “This is fantastic. We have had discussions with Rod Bluh and we’ve given him updated statistics about what we find.
“And we’ve had some positive discussions with them, so the council can see our point of view and we can see theirs.”