‘It is putting Eastbourne services under pressure’: Eastbourne MP demands Brighton council is responsible for its rough sleepers
A warning shot has been fired in the direction of Brighton council to use a £3.3 million government handout to house rough sleepers in its own area – instead of Eastbourne.
The warning came from Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell who said Brighton & Hove City Council should stop sending its homeless and vulnerable people to Eastbourne seafront hotels.
It follows an acrimonious row between Eastbourne and Brighton councils after the former placed more than 300 people in vacant hotels in Eastbourne during the pandemic – without telling the authority.
Officials said Brighton was being irresponsible as Eastbourne does not have the support services to cope with an extra influx of people.
Three people placed in Eastbourne hotels by Brighton council have subsequently died.
The MP has written to housing minister Robert Jenrick asking him to clarify with Brighton how and where the £3.3 million will be spent.
The authority received the cash as part of the Rough Sleepers Initiative to house and support the homeless. Eastbourne Borough Council was given £130,000.
Mrs Ansell said the situation has improved from when it peaked in January when there was more than 200 rough sleepers moved from Brighton to Eastbourne.
Despite this, she said the figure is ‘still higher than the pre-pandemic figure of around 50 and it is putting Eastbourne’s services under pressure’.
She said, “And even though the borough council, myself and others told Brighton that what it was doing was of great concern, its homeless are still being housed in our town albeit in lower numbers than before.
“Eastbourne does not lack compassion for those in need. But it does not have the services to cope with these levels and Brighton needs to use this substantial sum from the government to get its house in order and accommodate its rough sleepers in its area where there are the services and infrastructure to help.
“These are vulnerable people who have complex needs. It is not anything to do with not wanting them on our doorstep, it is solely about making sure they are properly helped. Eastbourne cannot do this when confronted with such large numbers.”
Brighton council said it was moving people back to the city and, in addition, having weekly meetings with on-site security in hotels and Eastbourne Police.
A Brighton council spokesperson said, “Our welfare officers are also providing weekly on-site support at hotels where it is Covid-safe to do so.
“We are exploring other accommodation opportunities within Brighton and Hove. We hope to be in a position to provide additional accommodation within the city in the next few weeks, which will relieve pressure on Eastbourne.”