The way the city council terminated the Salvation Army’s rough sleepers contract in York is to be formally reviewed.

And The Press understands that the review will look not only at the controversial circumstances under which the contract was abruptly ended last September – but also at the ‘challenging’ conditions under which it operated as long ago as early 2022.

The council announced last September that it would not be extending the Salvation Army’s £95,000-a-year contract to deliver rough sleeping services in York when it expired on September 30.

Instead, the authority said it would be using £260,000 of extra government funding over the next two years to expand its own rough sleepers service under a new homelessness strategy.

But the announcement was made so abruptly that the Salvation Army itself only learned that the contract was not to be extended in a call from The Press.

To make matters worse, an attempt to grant the charity a one-month contract extension to allow for a transition period came to nothing – because the council sent the contract out too late.

It later emerged that no rough sleepers had been consulted over the decision.

York Press: Charlie Malarkey of the Salvation Army meeting rough sleepers on York's streets just before ChristmasCharlie Malarkey of the Salvation Army meeting rough sleepers on York's streets just before Christmas (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Rough sleepers that The Press spoke to were universal in their condemnation.

One told The Press that it was always the Salvation Army that people living on the street turned to for help.

The 45-year-old said he wouldn't be alive but for the charity’s help. "I would have drunk myself to death," he said.

Now the way the contract was terminated is to be looked into by members of the city council’s Audit and Governance Committee.


A report will be submitted to the committee next month, following a request by Cllr Danny Myers, the Labour chair of the council’s health, housing and adult social care committee.

Cllr Myers wrote to the chair of the audit and governance committee, Liberal Democrat Cllr Andrew Hollyer, saying his committee members had ‘concerns’.

“At our meeting we heard from both the Salvation Army and the council that the contract and communication has been poorly handled … with a lack of communication between stakeholders about the contract and likely extensions, renewals or expiration,” Cllr Myers wrote.

“We further heard that a one-month or potential two-month extension to the contract was delivered to the Salvation Army by the council with just five minutes to go before close-of-play on the Friday when the original six month extension was due to expire. The Salvation Army said at our meeting that there was no way they could get it signed.”

Cllr Andrew Hollyer, the Lib Dem chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, has confirmed that the report will be submitted to his committee on February 28.

And The Press understands that the report will focus not just on what happened last year, but also the year before.

A council email seen by the Press says: “Relations were best considered as ‘challenging’ as far back as early 2022.”

The Salvation Army continues to run a rough sleepers programme without council funding. The council’s own new rough sleepers strategy - which the authority says aims to put an end to rough sleeping in York within the lifetime of this Labour administration - is still being drafted.

Out on the streets at 5am checking on rough sleepers

In early September last year,  The Press reported how members of the Salvation Army's early intervention team were out at 5am five days a week, checking on people sleeping rough on the city’s streets to ensure they were OK, and directing them towards help or a hot meal.

The charity also ran a regular drop-in service for rough sleepers at its base in Lawrence Street.

For years, this 'early intervention programme' had been funded through a £95,000-a-year contract with the city council.

That contract was abruptly terminated at the end of September, when the council announced it would not be renewing the Salvation Army's funding. Since then, the charity has paid the wages of its York early intervention staff itself. 

It later emerged that the question of whether the Salvation Army contract should be renewed had been up for discussion within the council for some time - under both the Labour and the previous Liberal Democrat/ Green administrations.

The most recent full extension of the contract was in early 2022.

Then, in March 2023, the then Lib Dem/ Green administration approved a further stop-gap six month contract extension.

By the time that contract extension came to an end in September last year, Labour had swept to power in York  - and it was the new Labour administration that took the decision not to renew it further. it is still not entirely clear why.

The city council's report on what happened will look all the way back to the granting of the most recent full extension in early 2022 - and also at the way the final ending of the contract in September last year was handled.