Vulnerable 'at risk' as council debates cutting housing services - The Rugby Observer
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Vulnerable 'at risk' as council debates cutting housing services

Rugby Editorial 15th Jul, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016

VULNERABLE people will suffer if proposals to reduce or abandon vital housing services go ahead, according to a county and borough councillor whose dual role means he is ineligible to vote on the plans.

Warwickshire County Council proposes to scale back frontline Housing Related Support services for disadvantaged and vulnerable people, to reduce the service’s annual budget from £8.6 million to £4.8 million by 2018.

But Coun Jerry Roodhouse, who has seats on Rugby Borough and Warwickshire County Councils, says he is unable to vote against the proposals due to his dual role.

A report being debated today (Wednesday July 15) recommends stopping funding for specialist housing support services for the homeless, offenders and the Gypsy and Traveller community.

It also suggests an end to funding for services currently offered to people with learning disabilities, mental ill health, and physical or sensory impairment – which will be re-commissioned ‘by competitive tender’.

Coun Roodhouse said: “I wouldn’t vote to recommend the report as it stands at the moment. It seems to me that we’re hitting some of the potentially more vulnerable groups.

“It seems to me we’re not sure what will the impact be when we stop funding specialist support for homeless families or offenders with support needs.

“The County Council has made some underspends and savings, so I think we should be exploring whether we can do this over a longer period, but we need to fully understand the impact of what has been proposed.

But Coun Roodhouse and others with dual county/district roles have been barred from asking questions or voting at the meeting.

“They’re saying there’s a conflict of financial interests with the district councils,” he said. “But this hasn’t even been debated at Rugby Borough Council. This is just a scrutiny exercise to examine what the impacts are.”

A County Council spokeswoman said such dual councillors would have a conflict of interests if they participated, and could leave themselves at risk of criminal prosecution.

She said: “All the district/borough councils in Warwickshire have put in formal responses to the consultation, and have flagged that there are financial implications for their own councils. Given these circumstances, county councillors who are also borough/district councillors will have a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011 and the Code of Conduct.

“The Council’s arrangements require that a county councillor who has a DPI in a matter coming before a committee should leave the room and not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter as part of their basic obligations.

“At this particular meeting, members with a DPI have been given a slot to express their views in this way but they cannot engage fully.”

At today’s meeting, Coun Roodhouse was expected to urge a full Council meeting to discuss the proposals, and that all councillors be allowed to speak.

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