A PROJECT aimed at tackling homelessness in East Lothian is at critical risk of failure, according to council officials.

East Lothian Council has given its homelessness policy the highest possible rating on its risk register, warning that its current approach could leave it unable to house those in need in the future.

The risk register sees homelessness given a red rating of 20, making it ‘almost certain’ it will fail.

It warns that a lack of resources to implement new rapid rehousing approaches to the issue make it likely the policy will fail, adding: “The approach could result in an inability to accommodate those in need, forcing use of non-contracted B&Bs/B&Bs outwith the county.”

The warning, which was given to the council’s audit and governance committee, came just days after councillors accused the Scottish Government of taking away the “hopes of homeless families” under its new policy.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet, officials said the amount allocated to the local authority to meet new national policy for homelessness was far below the funds needed.

They had estimated a successful project would require £7million over three years initially but were eventually awarded just £160,000 for one year.

Housing manager Nicky Sandford said that when the Scottish Government put forward its Rapid Rehousing project, it only set aside £19million to fund all councils across Scotland, but the money asked for by councils topped £126million.

The Scottish Government had asked councils to review their funding bids and East Lothian Council put in a second bid for £2.4million but it was still 80 per cent above the money offered.

Councillor Andrew Forrest said that the lack of funds offered to East Lothian Council meant the local authority would not be able to deliver the housing needed to meet demand.

He said: “What the Scottish Government are doing is taking away the last thing that homeless families have and that is hope that they will get their forever home.”

And Councillor Jim Goodfellow, cabinet spokesperson for housing, said he and council housing officers were frustrated by the lack of resources offered to support their plans.

He said: “The resource impact of Ministers’ decision not to fund our plans are eye-watering.”

Housing officers are now drawing up a third plan based on the funds available; however, the council’s development risk register has placed the likelihood of meeting proposals in the red danger zone.

As well as being asked to provide rapid rehousing, local authorities face changes to homelessness legislation which will mean people no longer have to prove a local connection to an area before demanding to be housed there.

Scott Kennedy, the council’s emergency planning, risk and resilience officer, warned the council would face additional requests for housing which it would have to accept on top of current pressures to find accommodation.

Among measures proposed to try and deal with the growing pressure in the future are the possibility of flat sharing for applicants as demand increases.

Following criticism of the rapid rehousing policy, Kevin Stewart MSP, Scottish Housing Minister, said:  “We have allocated £24 million over three years for rapid rehousing so that local authorities and partners can support people at risk of sleeping rough and those living in temporary accommodation into settled accommodation first; and then help with longer-term needs.

“This funding is in addition to the budget available to councils to support homeless.

“We continue to work with councils on our shared goal of ending homelessness and supporting people across Scotland.”