The Isle of Wight Law Centre has written to all elected members of the Isle of Wight council urging them to consider the impact of scrapping their core funding of £70,000. See the Isle of Wight council’s response below.
The Law Centre estimate their interventions last year (2017) saved the Isle of Wight council between £1.5 to £1.9 million adding that,
“If the Isle of Wight Council is serious about homelessness prevention, it should be increasing the Law Centre’s core funding, not terminating it!”
In the email to members the Law Centre explain what they do and how that saves the council money each year – adding that with the roll-out of Universal Credit across the Island, they anticipate dealing with more and more cases in the coming months.
Love: “A constructed dismantling” of services
Isle of Wight councillor for East Cowes, Cllr Karl Love told OnTheWight,
“Is this administration trying to completely bring the workings and functions of the IWC to an end? Is this administration trying to force our Island council into some sort of super council as it cuts vertically all services to the core?
“To me, this administration’s actions are a constructed dismantling of all that we know that works and functions within our council and they are using fancy words such as Sustainability and service redesign to force yet more cuts on to our Island people.”
Love: “Tory Austerity rules over us”
Cllr Love went on to say,
“We have never seen a council administration like this before, dictatorial in its application of service cuts and now reducing service provisions that hurts and limits our communities engagement to nothing more than basic functions.
“Anything that’s not a statutory requirement is being axed as though it simply does not matter or have value to our people.
“This administration claims to care for our Island people, but it places money above all else and we Cllrs are supposed to be serving the public good, enhancing service provision and creating a better way of life for all.
“What we have in this administration is a determined resolve to balance the books at all costs even if it means reduced life chances, reduced mobility and inclusion for our Island people.
“The proposed Tory budget 2019/20 is a savage attack on our public services and represents negativity and does not inspire our Island people.
“Tory Austerity rules over us and there is little that other councillors can do to stop them right now.”
OnTheWight has asked the IWC what provision they have put in place to replace the services provided by the Law Centre and will update once we hear back.
Law Centre’s appeal to councillors
Below are the contents of the Law Centre email sent to all councillors. Sub headings have been added by OnTheWight for ease of reading.
Law Centre statistics for 2017:
Mortgage repossessions claims dealt with: 18
Rent Repossession claims dealt with: 111
Eviction Warrants dealt with (both Mortgage and Rent): 64
Homelessness reviews: 3
Debt Relief Orders: 142
Administration orders: 2
Welfare Benefit claims secured:
Total backdates £141,237.45 in 2017
Weekly Income raised £9,116.31 per week
The key item in the above ‘activity outcomes’ are the Eviction Warrants that we have successfully stopped.
98% success rate in stopping evictions
To explain, when a family is facing a warrant of eviction the Law Centre has to carry out a number of tasks to stop the warrant: assess the merits of the case, make an application to the Court to get a hearing in front of a District Judge, draft witness statements and then travel to Court to advocate on behalf of the client to stop the warrant of eviction.
In 2017 the Law Centre had a 98% success rate in stopping evictions.
Saved IWC between £1.5 – £1.9m in 2017
The average cost to a Local Authority when accepting an individual/family as homeless, calculated in 2012 is in the range of £24,000 to £30.000 – Dept Communities Local Government (DCLG): Evidence Review Of Homeless (2012).
Even when using the 2012 figures and basing the maths on eviction warrants only, the Law Centre saved the Isle of Wight Council between £1,536,000 and £1,920,000 during 2017.
Preventing evictions an immediate and real cost saving
Currently the Isle of Wight Council is spending £1.4 million per annum on temporary accommodation – IOW Council Housing Delivery Report – 8th November 2018 so in the absence of an alternative organisation delivering the current work of the Isle of Wight Law Centre, you can see how that figure could easily double.
Of course, this is only focusing on just one of the Law Centre’s ‘activity outcomes’, but stopping all forms of repossession is an immediate and real cost saving to the Isle of Wight Council.
Anyone having to approach the Isle of Wight Council for assistance is seen as a failure in our eyes, and in reality the Isle of Wight Law Centre only exists for the benefit of the Isle of Wight Council.
Concerns over Universal Credit roll-out
With the introduction of Universal Credit and the Isle of Wight now in a full service area, it has been highlighted nationally that one of the major problems with UC is rent arrears leading to eviction. The Isle of Wight is currently a ‘legal aid desert’ with no firms of solicitors supplying legal aid for housing or debt matters. The Law Centre is the only organisation on the Isle of Wight with significant expertise in this area.
IWC should be increasing core funding, not terminating it
It may well be that the Isle of Wight Council have alternative or better arrangements that are going to be in place on the 1st July 2019? If that is the case then we will defer.
If the Isle of Wight Council is serious about homelessness prevention, it should be increasing the Law Centre’s core funding, not terminating it!
IWC: Law Centre can bid for the work
In response to a statement issued by the Isle of Wight Law Centre, an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said:
“Legally, the Isle of Wight Council has an obligation it must comply with when buying goods and services.
“Part of this legal obligation is to ensure that contract opportunities are advertised.
“The existing agreements for information, advice and guidance, including those with the Law Centre, will expire and it is necessary to ensure these are recommissioned so that valuable services for the Island can continue to be delivered.
“The procurement process is open and transparent and the Law Centre can bid for the contract, either alone or in partnership with other voluntary organisations, should it wish to continue to deliver these services.
“The current actions are not about stopping the support available but instead looking at better ways of delivering them and aligning them across the board.”
Law Centre: IWC’s “proposed intention is meaningless”
In response to the statement, a spokesperson from the Law Centre told OnTheWight,
“All the IOW Law Centre has received is notice terminating our core funding in June 2019, and that’s it.
“The IOW Council is now saying it intends to re-commission Advice, Information, & Guidance (AIG) services, but as the Law Centre doesn’t deliver AIG services, that proposed intention is meaningless. We’re not aware that any appropriate tenders have been published by the IOW Council?”
OnTheWight has posed more questions to the IWC and will update when we hear back.
Responses to questions can be found here.
10am – Statement from IWC added
2.40pm – Response from Law Centre added