A report to go to the Council’s City Executive Board this Thursday 14th April provides shocking evidence of Council underspending on housing support (known as Discretionary Housing Payment or DHP) at a time when there is desperate housing need in the City.
Not only are the Council proposing to return 6% of a £290,000 Government discretionary housing grant, they have failed to spend a penny of the Council’s allocated £150,000 top-up fund. Regulations cap the total amount of DHP that can be spent by Local Authorities to two and a half times the government contribution, yet the Council top-up fund (even if it were to be spent) only amounts to around half the government grant. The Council could legally spend about £1m on supporting those in housing need – yet it is spending less than a third of that amount whilst turning away, in the last year, more than one in three applicants (229 out of 603 applicants or 38% were refused support according to the figures in the Council’s report).
The report admits that the Council may have set the criteria for support funding too rigidly, a point which the Greens have been making for some time.
“Given the desperate housing situation in Oxford, we should be spending close to the maximum allowed by Government not handing back cash.” Says Green Councillor Elise Benjamin.