RED tape has held up the progress of getting a bus for the homeless on the road.

Colder weather is expected to hit Colchester in coming weeks and the Colchester Rough Sleepers Group hopes to get its homeless bus completed as quickly as possible.

Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, £25,000 was given to the group to buy, fit out and insure the bus.

A lot of the maintenance work has already been completed but there are some technical issues to resolve.

Project manager Vic Flores said: “Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just driving out the yard and taking people on board.

“We have many boxes to tick and regulations to comply with, to make sure our guests and our volunteers are safeguarded.

“The beds and mattresses are all in. Downstairs we have sofas that just need finishing and we have an oven and money for a fridge and a freezer.

“We have a catering company that will provide some meals and offers of other food for other evenings.”

The main problem now is getting the bus taxed. When seats are taken out of the bus it becomes a private HGV, which significantly lowers the road tax from £700 a year to £165 a year. Vic said there has been problems with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, which is struggling to decide the correct tax band.

He said: “We have a small hiccup in that the DVLA keeps changing its minds as to what class of vehicle it actually is and have returned our cheque for road tax twice now, which is holding us up, but hopefully not for long.” The next steps are to convert the toilet to a bathroom, and they are waiting for a solar panel system and water tanks.

The group is already supporting four people who have come off the streets into housing, working together with Colchester Borough Homes, Colchester Night Shelter and other agencies.

Mr Flores said: “Anyone involved knows housing is really only half the battle. Supporting people to maintain housing whilst addressing other issues is vital.

“Don’t think without the bus we are not helping people already. The bus is only one tool in what we hope will be a range of support services.”

The aim is to take eight homeless people and rough sleepers off the street each night by picking them up in the town centre and driving to an out-of-town location.