HORSHAM was branded the homelessness capital of the South East last week, after the district council sent the wrong information to a Government department.
Our district was shown to be a prominent island of red in a sea of blue on a map published by The Guardian.
The illustration was based on official figures published last week by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
They told the story, clearly shown on the homelessness map opposite, that the Horsham district has a higher proportion of households accepted by the council as homeless than any other authority in the South East – apart from three London boroughs.
Horsham stands out in sharp contrast to surrounding local authorities in Sussex and Surrey, and even against Brighton and Hove, known for its higher levels of homelessness.
The results seemed incongruous, and investigation by the County Times confirmed the Guardian newspaper used official Government statistics, and that the DCLG had received its figures direct from Horsham District Council.
Yesterday, HDC admitted this embarrassing episode was its fault, and that it had sent incorrect information to the Government.
In statement released to this paper, HDC said: “We have investigated how the error occurred and confirm that it was a user input error at our end. We keep both cumulative and quarterly figures on file and the wrong set were used during the uploading process in January.”
The council confirmed that the correct figures that should have been sent would have stated that 26 households, equivalent to 0.48 per 1000, were accepted as homeless from October to December 2011.
This accurate picture brings Horsham into line with neighbouring local authorities where for every 1,000 households figures range from 0.24 in Chichester district to 0.88 in the borough of Crawley.
If the homelessness map were redrawn, Horsham would be lost in the sea of blue that mainly covers the South East.
However, despite comparatively low levels of homelessness here from the national perspective, the issue is still a growing problem for many in the Horsham area.
A spokesperson for HDC said: “There has been a huge increase in the demand for social housing within the Horsham District over the last five years with the number of households presenting to the council seeking social housing increasing from less than 300 in 2006/07 to around 1500 in 2011/12.”