Council to purchase town building to replace temporary Glyndwr homeless provision as part of ‘no return to streets’ Welsh Government policy
Wrexham Council have met in secret to agree to purchase a large town centre property, and several other properties, after being awarded a multi million pound sum by Welsh Government to help tackle homelessness.
Earlier this year – to help prevent the spread of coronavirus – Welsh Government asked local authorities to remove rough sleepers from the streets and to rehouse them in temporary accommodation, locally that took place at disused accommodation at the Plas Coch end of the Glyndwr University campus.
Welsh Government announced there should be ‘no return to the streets’ for rough sleepers, and with the “imminent ending of the temporary arrangements that currently existing at Glyndŵr University on 16 October 2020 and the risk that this poses, both in terms of welfare, safety, spread of the virus and cost to returning individuals to sleep rough on the streets of Wrexham during the pandemic” urgent action has been taken.
Last month we reported how Wrexham Council was looking at an ‘alternative building’ to buy to use as a replacement while Tŷ Nos gets redeveloped, along with several other properties being purchased.
The report on that matter went before last week’s Executive Board meeting however was discussed in a fiery Part 2 secret session. The report gave councillors the outcome of a decision already taken, however due to the secret nature of the reports detail was negligible.
The only clue to the contents came via a few throwaway comments in the public part of the meeting:
Council Leader says no public questions, but member questions have been sent but ‘missed deadline’. Says Qs are about item 12 “emergency supported housing” and from town centre councillors. 2+2 = town centre is location of new facility? Item is being held in secret so who knows.
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) September 8, 2020
The eight point ‘decision’ notice off that debate has now been published, giving hints at what the report and debate contained, with the implication the Executive Board made a ‘decision’ – although we are told it was a ‘decision made under urgency powers’, and the ‘decision maker’ was Chief Executive Ian Bancroft.
Recently we have written about a similar style decision, where a bailout facility was given to Freedom Leisure via a controversial urgency powers decision, one that came before Executive Board finally but the Legal Officer saying it was before the Board to be noted rather than ‘reviewed’.
The “Decision” notice last week on homeless provision states it was ‘resolved’:
- That the Chief Officer Housing and Economy, following consultation with the Lead Member for Place – Housing, be authorised to acquire and undertake any necessary refurbishment work at a property identified in report COHE/32/20, using affordable housing capital receipts, affordable housing reserve and Supporting People reserve, as an emergency response to homelessness resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic and to continue the strategy to provide a “triage facility” to support people and help them to become tenancy ready.
- They be …. be authorised to undertake a review of provision ahead of the 12 month period of New Permitted Development Rights and based on the findings, be authorised to dispose of the property at market or seek full planning consent for the continuation of the emergency accommodation.
- That the offer from the Welsh Government be approved, to work with a partner to deliver a permanent “triage facility”
- Properties within the Council’s social housing stock (if no other accommodation is available) utilised to rehouse homeless people who are in danger of returning to the streets to sleep rough be supported.
It is unclear why the good news of allocations of public money via successful bids has been placed behind the Part 2 barrier, however it is usual to keep the purchase of property in such secret meetings to hopefully ensure the best value for taxpayers.
Wrexham.com understands the Council are set to, or have, purchased a town centre property that is ‘of sufficient size and configuration to provide a like-for-like alternative to that being used at the University campus’, and it will be purchased using council funds.
The purchased building will be used to provide the homeless service and then at the end of the 12 month period it will either be sold off, or a full planning application submitted to sustain the arrangement.
The Tŷ Nos redevelopment to provide more permanent accommodation for a ‘triage facility’ will also see a new build section to give 30 self contained units.
Wrexham.com understands approximately £2.238m has been awarded by Welsh Government, with Wrexham getting around a quarter of the entire biddable ‘pot’ open to all councils in Wales, to help deliver the project. That sum is roughly £1m short of the overall cost, which could be met via a third party housing association, with a complex agreement apparently being developed to ensure the council is not lumped with the cost, but could mean the site is owned by a housing association.
Welsh Government has also offered revenue support for management and development of homelessness services.
The purchase of a large property could also be followed with more properties being acquired, the council have publicly said they are “Identifying and buying five additional properties for use as ‘general need accommodation’ that can be used in different situations to support people who are homeless.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email News@Wrexham.com