Boughton's homeless hub delays to cost £77K
Delays in opening a controversial ‘homeless hub’ are expected to cost the taxpayer £77,000, official figures reveal.
Work is ongoing to convert the former Richmond Court old people’s home into a 36-bed hostel in Boughton, Chester – initially due to open its doors five weeks ago.
Now figures reveal that Cheshire West and Chester Council are expecting to have overspent by £77,000 on the opening of the new facility, despite estimating a £32,000 saving at the start of the financial year.
CWaC, which plans to open the homeless facility next month, attributed an unscheduled consultation with residents, who demanded action after fears over safety if the ‘hub’ opened near their homes, for the overspend.
The figures, hidden within Cheshire West and Chester’s Mid Year performance review, reveal the council paid £23,000 for the 12-week public consultation, alongside undisclosed costs for a temporary transition manager to help homeless people move onto temporary accommodation.
And the council has had to pay an undisclosed amount to extend the lease at Roodee House during the opening delays.
Campaigner Angela Chidley said the community felt in the dark before the consultation, which they had to fight for in order to get answers and vital safety measures including CCTV.
Angela said: “We had to fight, there wasn’t actually going to be a consultation, the community fought for it.
“Really the community only ever wanted to have their say, we only wanted to find out what was happening. I think that has happened.
“If the consultation had been planned from the very start I think things would have gone far more smoothly.”
Although the community remains divided over the opening of the facility, a group has been formed to liaise with service providers Foundation Enterprises North West and CWaC, which Angela hopes will help the transition run more smoothly.
Labour Leader Cllr Justin Madders said: “I think this shows how badly it was handled from the start.
“If they had conducted the consultation at the start of the exercise they wouldn’t have had these additional costs. All of the issues would have been raised and discussed at that stage instead of blaming it on the people who live there.
“It is entirely down to the council’s bad handling of the problem.”
A council spokesman said: “The council has incurred some additional costs arising from its decision to delay the opening of Richmond Court in order to ensure that all issues raised by the local community are addressed.
“A thorough 12-week public consultation - undertaken at the request of local residents - cost the authority £23,000.
“Other costs have included employing a temporary transition manager to help homeless people move on to permanent accommodation – a key aim of the new contract – and extending the lease of Roodee House.
“This expenditure has resulted in a £77,000 forecasted overspend in 2013/14.
“We would emphasise that the council has not incurred any additional costs for the refurbishment or security of Richmond Court, providing accommodation at Stoak Lodge, or associated transport. These costs are being met by the provider FENW under the contract agreement.
“The current contract value for homelessness services is £770,000 per year compared with £1m under the previous contracts, representing an annual £230,000 saving for the duration of the five-year contract.”