More than 200 homeless people from Brighton and Hove are still living in Eastbourne and Lewes a year after complaints from councillors and an MP.

The number is down from a peak of 330 last year after Brighton and Hove City Council scrambled to find places for rough sleepers shortly after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior member of Eastbourne Borough Council criticised Brighton and Hove and said that the unacceptable practice was making it harder for Eastbourne to house its own rough sleepers.

And Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell has twice raised the issue in the House of Commons including at Prime Minister’s Questions.

A report to Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Committee said: “The council has for many years had to use some emergency short-term accommodation outside the city due to the capacity of the market within the city.

“However, as previously reported following the outbreak of the pandemic and the increasing need for emergency accommodation, these figures escalated to a peak of 330 in Eastbourne and Lewes areas.

“We have worked hard to identify additional accommodation within the city and have managed to reduce numbers down to 234 as of (Friday) 10 September 2021.

“We are committed to continuing to reduce our need to make placements outside of the city to a pre-pandemic level, taking into account some clients will need to be placed out of borough for their own safety, and to reduce our overall need for temporary and emergency accommodation as we refocus on prevention.”

The council brought in 369 people who were sleeping on the streets or otherwise homeless at the start of the first national coronavirus lockdown.

Of those, the council is still trying to find suitable longer-term housing for 167 but is struggling to find the right places, with many troubled individuals in need of significant support.

Since March last year, the council has sent back – or “reconnected” – 149 homeless people to where they have stronger local links – with more than 30 of those being sent back more recently.

The report, to the council’s Housing Committee, said that a rough sleeper count in Brighton and Hove in July found just 28 people on the streets. This was half the 56 who were found a year earlier.

The council is trying to buy, rent and build more homes to tackle the shortage of supply, particularly of temporary and emergency housing, for those in greatest need.

Although the council has been given millions of pounds of extra funding by the government, the budget for temporary housing could be overspent by £2.6 million by next spring.

Officials said that they could use government cash to cut the overspend by just over £1.6 million and bring it down to just under £1 million.

In all, they are putting forward a set of proposals costed at more than £6 million to tackle rough sleeping, homelessness and the fall-out form the covid-19 pandemic on housing.

The package of measures, worth about £8 million, is due to be considered by the council’s Housing Committee next week and by the Policy and Resources Committee just over a fortnight later.

They include

  • To approve a capital budget of £2.8 million, financed by £700,000 from the government and borrowing of £2.1 million to be repaid from rents, to buy 12 homes where “higher need” rough sleepers will be given support.
  • To approve a capital budget of £3.24 million to buy 30 properties on 10-year leases to deliver “rapid rehousing for “lower need” rough sleepers, financed by £1.163 million from the government and borrowing of £2.08 million to be repaid from rents.
  • To approve the continued use of emergency short-term hotels from next month (October) until next March “in light of continuing pressures of those to whom the council owes a statutory accommodation duty under the Homelessness Reduction Act in emergency accommodation”.
  • To use £1.615 million left over from a relevant government grant to reduce the forecast £2.6 million overspend on temporary housing.
  • To fund 15 to 20 hotel rooms to be used as part of the SWEP (severe weather emergency protocol) from next month (October) to next March

The Housing Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 4pm next Wednesday (22 September). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.