The recent collapse of South Somerset District Council’s plans to move Yeovil’s homeless facility to Hendford Hill has been described as “a blunder that risks leaving homeless people out in the cold” by Terry Ledlie, chair of Yeovil Labour Party. He added that the ruling Liberal Democrat group had “so far managed to acute the double-whammy of failing homeless people and enraging local residents.” The Pathways homeless facility in Newton Road has been managed for the council by the Bournemouth Churches Housing Association since2020. As part of the deal, the council allocated £390,000 to move the shelter to Acacia Lodge, a former care home on Hendford Hill. The plan met with very strong opposition from local people, who felt that they had not been properly consulted. In the face of this pushback and spooked by some poor local by-election results, the council officially dropped the planned move earlier this month. With the District Council due to be swallowed up by the new Somerset Unitary Authority in just four months’ time, this leaves the council struggling to arrange alternative provision before they are wound up.
Terry Ledlie said, “With the Newton Raod homeless facility due to close next spring, the council needs to find alternative provision as a matter of the utmost urgency. They have left vulnerable people at risk through their bungled plan. There is now no room at all for further blunders. Many local people are already under extreme pressure from the cost-of-living crisis. Rising rents and interest rates are combining with higher energy bills to push people to breaking point. Homelessness is set to rise in the coming years as more repossessions are already coming to court, making the need for a decent local safety net even more essential. Val Keitch, the current leader of the District Council, is moving seamlessly into a high position on the new unitary authority. She should do her utmost to ensure that the new council takes on proper responsibility for dealing with homelessness. This could mean keeping the Newton Road faciality open if no alternative can be found.
“The Liberal Democrats must take full responsibility for this mess and should strain every sinew to ensure that there is proper provision for homeless people. “The very least that anybody needs is a roof over their heads and local politicians should be judged on their ability to provide for those in most need.”