MAJOR concerns remain over an anticipated rise in homelessness, despite the Government extending its ban on evictions at the eleventh hour.

Fears have been raised that 250,000 people across the country could soon be at increased risk of eviction, according to homelessness charity Shelter.

Barrow mayor and council spokesperson for housing, Kevin Hamilton, has said that, once the ban is lifted in four weeks’ time, the impact across the borough could be ‘massive’.

But the borough council has confirmed that emergency planning and preparations are being developed in order to mitigate the effects of the ban’s lifting across the district.

A meeting was held last Thursday with the County Courts for Cumbria and Lancashire giving direction on new court protocols, following the anticipated lifting of possession proceedings.

This week, the borough council is to issue a statement that is expected to reveal some of the detail of its plans to ensure that a potential surge in homelessness across the area can be avoided.

The month-long extension of the ban was confirmed on Friday, following indications from Number 10 that it was considering a last-minute change of stance.

Opposition parties have warned that emergency legislation would be needed in order to prevent a wave of winter evictions that could leave thousands homeless nationwide.

One south Cumbria MP said the Government was 'simply kicking the can down the road' with the last-minute announcement of that the four-week ban would be extended.

However, housing Renewal Manager, Chris Jones, explained some of the wider considerations that may delay some of the adverse effects of the ban’s lifting in south Cumbria.

“Firstly, we can’t second guess how landlords are going to act once the ban is lifted,” he said.

“Then, there’s the question of the considerable administrative backlog created during the pandemic - meaning it is going to take longer for court orders to be secured and for lawful eviction cases to proceed.”

A similar level of concern has been voiced in other parts of south Cumbria. South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has said it is working with partner bodies and county courts to offset the effects of the ban being lifted.

Since lockdown began in March, SLDC has recorded a 40 per cent increase in the number of people contacting the council for homelessness advice.

A spokesperson for SLDC said last week that ‘we do anticipate a further rise in enquiries when the suspension of evictions comes to an end.’

South Lakes MP Tim Farron believes the Government needs to go one step further and remove no fault evictions. He said: “We’re facing the biggest backlog of potential evictions in recent history.

“There are a lot of people whose circumstances have changed since March, or who are on six-month or indefinite tenancies, who are going to be in a very difficult situation.

“The Government urgently needs to get rid of ‘no-fault evictions’. It said it would during last year’s election and made some noises about it earlier this year. But so far it has done nothing.”

Commenting last week, Cllr Jonathan Brook, SLDC Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Innovation, said: “As always, our message to anyone facing the plight of homelessness is to get in touch with us as quickly as possible.

"The sooner people ask for help, the more chance there is that we can prevent them losing the safety and security of the roof over their head.

“There is little the team haven’t heard before and nobody should feel embarrassed about picking up the phone. We are here to help and it really is okay to ask.

“Our Housing Options team provides a one-stop service for local people experiencing difficulties, such as being asked to leave by their landlord, family/relationship breakdowns, young people leaving home, domestic violence, and getting into arrears with rent/mortgage.

“A lot of our work is focussed on preventing the misery of homelessness before it happens, by liaising with landlords to allow tenants to stay on where they are; help with paying arrears and deposits; and working with families and young people to prevent relationship breakdowns spiralling into homelessness."