HOMELESSNESS services in Monmouthshire are set to be merged with a neighbouring council.

At a meeting of Monmouthshire council’s cabinet on Wednesday, it was agreed to develop an integrated approach that will see Monmouthshire council seek to combine the homelessness and housing options services with Torfaen council to create a housing futures service for 2015 that aims to be self-funding within five years.

Both councils have to make substantial savings, with Monmouthshire Housing Options Service needing to make a saving of £55,000 over the next three years.

In November the Welsh Government passed a Housing Bill which imposed a new duty on local authorities to take all reasonable steps to prevent homelessness for anyone approaching them who may be at risk of losing their home within 56 days.

The councils have been integrating services since November with a jointly run out-of-hours service, use of temporary accommodation stock and combining resources to gain access to the private rented sector to prevent homelessness.

The housing future service will be focused on providing help and advice for all in housing need and not just those at risk of being homeless. It also aims to give advice on leasehold, repairs, grants, loans, equity release and shared ownership.

In his report to the cabinet, housing consultant Andy Gale said the merger would not directly impact on the service to residents, but involve building costs and digitalisation of services.

Face-to-face services would still be available for those who choose them, added Mr Gale, and particularly for those with literacy and sense impairments.

Councillor Dimitri Batrouni asked if the proposal was ‘dead’ if Monmouthshire is not merged with Torfaen and if it is necessary to collaborate.

Cllr Batrouni raised the concern ahead of the anticipated ‘Williams Report’ by the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery, which is expected to recommend existing councils in Wales merge.

Kellie Beirne, the council’s chief officer for regeneration and culture, said: “Nothing stops us from investing. This does not cut off our ability to invest in the service in the future. This is about collaboration on the basis of market boundaries.”