There’s dispute about who first said: “when the facts change, I change my mind”.

But whether it was John Maynard Keynes, Winston Churchill or someone else, it seems an appropriate maxim to work by.

That’s why I have decided to pause the proposal to stop our discretionary grants to various organisations which help the homeless or those in danger of becoming homeless.

To be clear, housing and homelessness is not a statutory responsibility of the county council.

However, in the past, we have made voluntary grants to organisations working with the homeless from our adult services’ budget.

This time last year, as you might remember, I was warning of a potential £40 million hole in our budget at County Hall as a result of surging demand for our statutory services for vulnerable children and adults following the pandemic and soaring inflation.

There are three ways we could have funded that - more cash from Government, more cash from you in council tax, or reducing our spending.

I am always loath to ask for more money than absolutely necessary from our council taxpayers and, nationally, the Government doesn't have much extra cash to give. So we made a determined attempt to cut our costs and reduce our spending.

One of the areas we looked at was the voluntary grant we made to groups supporting the homeless.

However my colleagues in Devon's district councils - who have the responsibility for housing and homelessness - petitioned me to think again and the organisations which were set to lose funding warned of the possible consequences.

This culminated at a special meeting at County Hall last month at which I listened carefully to members of the public speak passionately about how they had been helped by our support and  the impact the proposed cuts could have on their organisations.

Their vivid witness persuaded me to pause the budget cuts for now and try to find a more positive way forward. That is not to say that we don't still need to find big savings in order to balance our budget.

But we need to take stock and understand more fully the impact. We now have time to enter into detailed discussions with our district council colleagues and the providers on how we can improve this service but get better value by working more closely together.

Devon’s Chief Executive, Donna Manson, is already meeting regularly with our district councils’ housing services to discuss a way forward.

The issue of homelessness has significance across a great deal of what we do to try to improve life for the people of Devon - whether that is in terms of good public health, our support to young people - and especially our care leavers - as well as our adult social care services.

We need to better understand the full impact of such decisions on all aspects of our public services, including the impact on our Team Devon district council partners.

This pause means we can have a full and frank discussion with our eight district council leaders and officers and the voluntary sector.

And I also want to involve other agencies, such as the police and Public Health, and to see a full and accurate picture of the different situations across the county.

By the end of this calendar year, I want to have a joint view on the way forward, and a design for how the service will work in future that can be agreed by all.

In the meantime, we will extend our current contracts with providers until the end of March next year so they have certainty over the winter.