DEVON ‘can’t afford’ grants that help stop people becoming homeless.

At a Devon County Council cabinet meeting this week, Cllr James McInnes (Conservative, Hatherleigh & Chagford), who’s responsible for adult services, was probed about the plan to scrap Devon’s £1.5 million contribution to projects which prevent people becoming homeless.

The council insists no decision will be made until a special cabinet meeting scheduled for next month, but Cllr McInnes appeared to suggest there is unlikely to be a change of heart.

'The county council works with the district [and] city councils but we’re not statutorily obliged to deal with homelessness,' he said in response to a question from Labour group leader Carol Whitton.

'[It’s] money that we can’t afford,' Cllr McInnes added. 'The only way we could afford it would be [to] take it away from the statutory services which we have a responsibility for. And as cabinet member for adult services I’m not prepared to do that, so I’m very clear.'

The £1.5 million currently pays for contracts with five providers who support around 250 people at any one time.

Their services are provided in multiple occupancy hostels in Exeter, East Devon, Torridge and North Devon, as well as through a countywide support service. None of the money pays for accommodation.

Local charities have hit out at the potential funding cut. YMCA Exeter, which receives £150,000 from the council, says 'the consequences for vulnerable young adults will be huge', while St Petrock’s, a charity in Exeter, warned it could lead to a 'homelessness crisis' in the city.

They believe it will end up costing other services such as district councils, the police, NHS and social care 'significantly more in the medium to long term.'

Meanwhile, Cllr McInnes also admits 'there is a risk that hostels may close,' in a further written answer to Cllr Whitton, 'but that is not an inevitability'.

He adds: 'Although we do not fund accommodation, in identifying the risk of hostels closing, we have subsequently had informed conversations about how that risk can be averted or managed, including finding alternative funding options, or repurposing or reconfigure existing provision.'

When the proposal was first announced, a spokesperson for Devon County Council also said it can no longer afford the money, diverting it instead towards spending in other areas that support vulnerable children, young people and adults.

A decision is expected to be made at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday 23 August.