A big drop in the number of rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove is to be investigated after a request by three opposition councillors.
They said that the number of rough sleepers had been misrepresented after a change to the way that they were counted.
Conservative councillors Robert Nemeth, Mary Mears and Nick Taylor asked for ‘an urgent investigation’ into the way in which the number was ‘calculated and represented’ by Labour-run Brighton and Hove City Council.
The count – in November – suggested that there were 64 people sleeping on the streets locally, down from 178 a year earlier.
Cllr Nemeth told the council’s Audit and Standards Committee at Hove Town Hall: “Councillor Mears, Taylor and I would be so pleased if rough sleeping figures had fallen but there were two different counting methods used.
“This led to misleading reporting, disputed by various homeless experts.
“It would be good to get to the bottom of this.”
The committee was told that rough sleeper counts were carried out nationally on the same day every year using methods set by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
But the three councillors were concerned that changes to the method had given a misleading impression.
A headcount was carried out in November but previously the number was based on an estimate using information from the council’s outreach service and other organisations.
When the latest figure was published, the council said: “The count method has been reintroduced in Brighton and Hove following discussions with the ministry about how other areas conduct their counts.”
The previous estimated figure suggested that Brighton and Hove had the highest level of homelessness in the country outside London.
Councillor Nemeth said that the headcount in November ‘was carried out on one of the most dreadful nights of the year, in snowy conditions, when it was obviously lower’.
He added: “It would be wrong to compare the two.
“We are calling for a report to clear up the matter properly to avoid the council falling into disrepute.”
The Audit and Standards Committee asked for a report to be prepared for its next meeting, in March.