Saving of £70k per annum could cost Isle of Wight council between £1.5-£2m, say Law Centre (update 2)

With the lack of Legal Aid on the Isle of Wight, the Law Centre is the only place that provides assistance to those facing eviction. They say that if the Isle of Wight Council is serious about homelessness prevention, it should be increasing their core funding, not terminating it.

Axe in wood:

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
Bankruptcies: 18
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.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how terminating our core funding of £70,000 is a false economy.

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.

Article edits
10am – Statement from IWC added
2.40pm – Response from Law Centre added

Image: Cogdog under CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, 4th December, 2018 12:12pm

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ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2lVB

Filed under: Budget Cuts, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Top story

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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14 Comments on "Saving of £70k per annum could cost Isle of Wight council between £1.5-£2m, say Law Centre (update 2)"

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steephilljack

I agree with Cllr Karl Love completely. IOW Council is driven by the need to balance the books no matter what the cost is for ordinary people. Is austerity over ? No it gets worse

hialtitude

Typical Tory myopia, penny wise, pound foolish.

Not content with the Westminster Brexit brigade depressing the value of the GBP.

The local Tories want to cost the IOW council a fortune in B&B costs to save a small amount of legal assistance, to say nothing of the heartache caused to the families that may be made homeless.

Look forward to more council tax rises.

elemental
For IOWCC to be even considering the closure of this vital resource is appalling IMO. IOWCC made £10,000,000 from local parking charges & it has just borrowed £19,000,000 for questionable property acquisitions on the mainland. Several months ago, it announced £400,000 additional spending on internal administration costs & it has wasted millions on a substandard floating bridge ferry, despite this latter presumably being under warranty anyway. The… Read more »
meganz0e10

Social Housing is nigh on impossible for these people to get on the Island. This Council is running roughshed over everyone who is disadvantaged Spending money on white elephants.It seems our Council Tax etc is an open cheque book for them(or is that roughshed over everyone who isn’t idle rich). Remember this when you get your next vote.

Geoff Brodie

The beginning of the end for existing advice service providers on the island. We will soon see ‘theyoutrust’ (look them up) running these services and probably CAB. They have a foothold here already.

realitycheck
If another organisation can provide a cost effective service then why not…? If they can’t then where does the money come from – everyone again moaning about lack of money – THERE IS NO MORE MONEY available so suggestions below please for other services that can be cut to pay for this one… Tory myopia..? OK then – what would Labour or independents do – please feel… Read more »
Phil Jordan
RC: Perhaps a little more than a postcard…… So, since the conservatives took over running our council in January 2017 (having spent three years telling us that the council did not need anymore money – it just needed to manage what we had more prudently: Oh how times change) they have cut around £11.5m of services across the board – much of that from vulnerable people in… Read more »
realitycheck
However, the Council is elected by the Island residents and there is NO evidence to suggest that Labour or any other party would do any better – it’s the same old ‘he said / she said’ argument dependant upon who is in opposition… Not seeing any votes of ‘no confidence’, rebellion or challenges to remove poor decision making…perhaps I am not looking deeply enough or perhaps we… Read more »
Phil Jordan
RC: There are many researched (academic) reports – two for the Island alone – that demonstrate from actual data (ie, read service users) that the LAC’s prevent front line costs across the health and social care spectrum in the magnitude of about four to one. You may well be entering into a very precarious minefield if you are suggesting that such academic research is invalid or is… Read more »
realitycheck
So where is the money..? This is a really simple question – if the LAC’s have saved money by delivering their service, where is the evidence to show the savings…? Is it less A&E attendances..? Less people claiming benefits…? Less of something else…? I am not disputing the value of the work they do, or indeed that early intervention can reduce dependency later – what I am… Read more »
Phil Jordan
RC: As I feared, you are questioning the validity of the academic research. Let’s be clear. That research has demonstrated cost savings fourfold to the service delivery costs. And that cost saving is demonstrated around the country. That you are unable to *find* the money does not mean it has not been saved… as the research shows. You are asking to demonstrate where the money is that… Read more »
realitycheck
Well if the savings then are in the health and social care budgets, then explain the increasing demand on the resources available with the council and health stating that cuts have to be made. If the money is in the budgets then I could reasonably expect that money to be spent however as I tried to make clear to you earlier, it isn’t there as either it… Read more »
Phil Jordan
RC: A final comment. The LAC system saves money. Around four times the cost of providing the service. Those cost savings are (therefore) ‘unspent’ from front facing, system wide budgets. Regardless of whether or not the system is *integrated* the cost savings remain. There is some integration on the Island (I accept it is not entire) and some health and social care services are currently jointly commissioned.… Read more »
realitycheck
PJ: A final comment as well (hopefully slightly more final)… “Spending on social care began to fall in real terms from 2009, though it has fallen much more steeply since 2010, and fewer people are receiving publicly funded services”. “There is a risk that, under a localist agenda, central government absolves itself of responsibility for supporting delivery of critical local services while at the same time cutting… Read more »