As we are busy with Christmas preparations and parties, the county council sneaks in drastic cuts to the most vulnerable.
Cuts to the homeless budgets have been rushed through just before Christmas despite the well thought through – and financially sound – input into the consultation, which Stonepillow presented to the Health and Adult Social Care Committee earlier in December.
Bus subsidies have been cut, too, with inevitable effects on social isolation.
Without a reliable, affordable and regular bus service we don’t even offer people choice in the way they travel, which will lead to even more congestion and air pollution.
We have four layers of Government, all run by the Conservative Party and yet our councils are unable to work together to prevent harm to the most vulnerable.
Big Whitehall announcements about rough sleepers on the national news ring hollow in our ears, when we know that our local councils state they just can’t make ends meet.
Our councils actually have millions in reserve but are fighting over whose statutory responsibility it is to help the less advantaged.
This is our society at its worst.
Meanwhile, the churches in Chichester are well on their way to setting up their own scheme to help the homeless – providing hot meals every day and hopefully soon an overnight facility once training has taken place and statutory hoops jumped through.
I wonder if at the back of the councillors’ minds is the reassurance that the ‘support system’ can be hacked away or wages kept low, or rents high, or even professional support workers done away with as there will always be generous people around to donate to the Foodbank and set up ‘cheaper to run’ services depending almost entirely on volunteers.
Having an alternative service in local churches does offer choice to the homeless of where they receive help but taking away the funds to Stonepillow and the other providers is not humane.
Who will pay the price? The people who fall through the net.
The professional support from Stonepillow and all the other providers shouldn’t be cut back – even if you have the churches to pick up the pieces.
We need both sorts of provision. It should’t be either or.
We also face a Local Plan where most houses delivered by developers are clearly unaffordable and don’t fulfil local need (we are crying out for smaller, cheaper units).
I urge residents to comment on the Plan before the February deadline and stand up for provision to be made that local people can afford.
The whole system is dysfunctional.
Yes, I agree it needs overhaul, but not in a way that leaves gaps in provision and which is at the expense of the homeless people on our streets this winter.
The mayor has set up a Homelessness Forum – it shouldn’t be too hard for proper working together of
all sectors and layers of councils surely?
I hope that the opposition parties in the county can hold one cabinet member to account in the new year and that we can somehow get our democratic system to work better and for all, not just for the already well housed and those who have cars.
Let’s hope also that we can start to shift the main priority of our institutions away from obsessive focus on money towards the well-being of our residents.
If you put people’s well being first, shared prosperity will follow.
If you make cost-cutting your key mantra, the consequences can easily damage the most vulnerable.
Last Christmas saw the closure of the Foyer.
This Christmas is not much better with ill-thought through cuts.
Let’s work together to turn this ship around in 2019.
Sarah Sharp, City councillor for Chichester South, Whyke Lane, Chichester