After a day of protests Salford Council announced that it was axing funding for Lancaster House and other facilities which support vulnerable homeless people in the city. The decision will result in a loss of 56 beds in Salford – but incredibly the Council put out a statement last night saying it will mean "improved support for the homeless".
The day began with a march by homeless people and their supporters from Lancaster House, on Lancaster Road, to the Civic Centre in Swinton where a noisy demo urged councillors to save the facility which provides accommodation and support for 38 single men.
Placards with slogans reading `8000 people supporting Lancaster House, time to listen Salford Council' and `£370,000 on BBC party, £0 on Homeless People of Salford' were waved, while speakers from trade union, UNISON, pledged support and Salford `super hero' Knight Warrior joined in.
However, at the afternoon's Housing Lead Members Briefing - held behind closed doors with the press barred and a rep from Lancaster House allowed in only to hand over a petition – the decision was made by Councillor Peter Connor to axe funding for Lancaster House and other facilities for the homeless in the city.
Outside the Civic Centre, Emma Hampson, service manager at Lancaster House, said that both Positive Lifestyles, which runs the homeless support centre, and the service users themselves will be seeking a judicial review into the decision at the High Court.
"We're going to fight this to the bitter end" she said "I think it's terrible that they can put these cuts in place for the most vulnerable people in Salford, I think it's wrong.
"We're full, we've got a waiting list, we've spoken to the Winsdor drop in centre, which is a night shelter, and they're full with a waiting list too and they've said this will impact on them" she added "The Council are blaming it on the central Government cuts but at the end of the day they make the decision on where to make the cuts, and they're making the wrong decision because they're hitting the most vulnerable. We heard that the Council spent £370,000 to welcome the BBC to Salford. It's a huge waste of money - that would support places like Lancaster House for years."
Campaigners and users of Lancaster House were further incensed last night after Salford Council issued a press release with the spin "Improved Support for Homeless in Salford".
The press release stated that the Council had a new "radical plan to transform the way services are run", a "new model" which "looks at improving supported accommodation for single homeless people". It announced "a new flagship project in Pendleton" which will "help to provide services like this".
What the press release didn't say was that the new `flagship project' will only provide 20 beds for the homeless, when 76 are being lost. And Councillor Peter Connor, the Council's lead member for Housing makes it quite clear in his printed quotes that this is a cut…
"Due to Government spending reductions…the council has had to look even more critically at how a number of services, including those to the homeless, can be delivered in future years at less cost" he says "In light of this we have reviewed the whole 'homeless' sector, and working with partners have developed a new model for delivering support for single homeless people. This includes making a reduction in the number of traditional supported accommodation projects in which support is commissioned."
Peter Connor - who, we understand, had told a Lancaster House campaigner earlier in the day that the press was `exploiting' vulnerable homeless people - adds in the release that "the review of the homeless sector was never about one project, and it is unfortunate that it has been presented, by some, in this way."
Connor's comments and the way the press release phrased the cuts angered David Allum, a resident at Lancaster House and a representative of service users.
"Everything that the council says it's trying to provide here, Lancaster House already supplies" he explained "We should also point out that the asset survey they mention did not cover all services in Salford but a select few - our survey consisted of ten minutes with a surveyor and that was it.
"The Council has not listened to reasonable argument and the Council has not listened to the people" he added "We will continue to fight this and the next step will be a judicial review in the High Courts. Lancaster House can prove that we are the best service in Salford and if the council didn't ignore three months of e-mails, as well as the £50,000 consultant they paid to evaluate us - who says we are up to scratch - then we would not be in this situation."
David says that he will stand against both Peter Connor and Salford MP, Hazel Blears, at the next elections.
"The fight will continue to save Lancaster House, and furthermore I can say `Connor, I am coming for you (politically)'… The system of Local Government is not at fault, it's the ill advised people inside it…"
The Salford Star asked Salford Council to explain how reducing 56 beds in the city for homeless people will lead to `improved services' but no-one was available for interview…
Read previous Salford Star articles on Lancaster House: Click here and click here
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