THE number of people Oxford City Council counted sleeping on its streets dropped last month from May's total – but it insisted the figure is still too high.

The authority blamed national trends including welfare reform, austerity and a lack of genuinely affordable housing across the country for homelessness.

It said it counted 41 people sleeping rough on a July night. That was a 15 per cent drop from the 48 counted in May.

The authority conceded street counts do not give a complete picture for the whole city.

But it said they are useful to indicate trends.

Linda Smith, the council's deputy leader, said: “Although we’re doing more than ever before to prevent and reduce homelessness, the number of people sleeping rough is still too high. A quarter of the people we counted in July were new to the streets.

“Homelessness is a national crisis and it needs government action to tackle its root causes – welfare reform, austerity-driven cuts to drug, alcohol and mental health support services and not enough genuinely affordable social housing."

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She added: “At the same time, we need the resources to effectively tackle the effects of the crisis. Although we’ve won nearly £2m in additional government funding in the last year, it’s only temporary and it’s not enough. To beat homelessness, we need the certainty of sufficient funding we don’t have to apply for again every year.

“And it’s not just about providing beds. We need more of the right kind of support – not just to help people arriving on or returning to our streets, but also to ensure they can successfully move on into sustainable housing as quickly as possible. We need real solutions, not sticking plasters.”

Elsewhere, figures show South Oxfordshire Council paid £4,997.90 last month for temporary accommodation at Travelodge hotels. Vale of White Horse Council spent £581.66.