Homeless Edinburgh: Tories call for reorganisation to avoid losing out on vital funding

Tackling homelessness in the Capital may have to be handed to another body in order to avoid losing millions of pounds of funding, a Tory councillor has claimed.

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Finance spokesman Andrew Johnston said Edinburgh could not afford to miss out on the £9m which it was denied last year because of what appeared to be a “bureaucratic anomaly”.

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And he said the city may have to follow Glasgow in transferring homelessness from the city council to the integration joint board (IJB) which oversees health care.

Edinburgh has some of the most worrying figures on homelessness, says council leader Adam McVey

Glasgow was able to reclaim £8.8m for homelessness work through the 2020-21 health mobilisation plan while Edinburgh was unable to recover equivalent costs of £9.3m.

Politicians in the Capital have been pressing the Scottish Government to ensure Edinburgh receives the money, but so far without success.

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Councillor Johnston said: “I think the council has no choice now. If we want the homelessness money, which of course we do, and there is a problem we're going to have to have an internal reorganisation and give this to the IJB.

"I have all sorts of concerns about giving it to the IJB given the difficulties they have with their own affairs. But if it means getting £9m then it is worth it because that would go a long way to help homeless people.

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"It's really disappointing. The Scottish Government could easily have sorted this. All it would have been taken was a stroke of a pen and a Scottish minister to say they recognise there are unique challenges in Edinburgh.”

In answer to a question from Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs in the Scottish Parliament, Housing Secretary Shona Robison said most homelessness funding for councils was paid through the annual local government settlement, but since March 2020 funding had been given to IJBs to support the extra costs of Covid. “Edinburgh council has not delegated homelessness services to the Edinburgh integration authority and so funding provided to the integration authority cannot be used to tackle homelessness.”

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Mr Briggs said: “It is very concerning that Shona Robison has failed to acknowledge the funding shortfall for tackling homelessness in Edinburgh or taken action to rectify the shortfall.

“People in Edinburgh who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless should not be losing out because of how homeless prevention is administered in the Capital.

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“SNP and Green ministers talk a good game about ending homelessness, but they need to put their money where their mouth is and deliver fair funding.”

Council leader Adam McVey said he and his colleagues continued to lobby ministers on the issue but made clear he had no plans to transfer the job of tackling homelessness to the IJB.

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He said: “We will absolutely pursue this issue until we get to a fairer funding position because the area in Scotland with the greatest housing need and some of the most worrying figures on homelessness is Edinburgh.”

But he said they would not be "gerrymandering services to take advantage of funding changes" .

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"We need to make the case properly, based on where we think those services are most effective.

“If there is a strong case for moving services to the IJB to improve the delivery for people then of course we’ll listen to that, but not just so we can manipulate a funding programme.”

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