Local Labour Councillors back Homelessness Reduction Bill
Bedford Borough Labour Councillors are backing new cross-party homelessness legislation, but say Government must fairly fund Local Councils so they can meet their increased obligations as proposed in the Bill.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill, aims to bring down high levels of homelessness by placing stronger duties on councils to help people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness at an earlier stage. Bedford Borough Labour Group supports the Bill but has warned that any new rules must be fully funded.
Across England since 2010, the number of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets has doubled and headline or ‘statutory’ homelessness has increased by 44%. Under the Labour government from 1997-2010, rough sleeping fell by 75% and statutory homelessness was reduced by nearly two-thirds.
Between 2009/10 and 2015/16 in Bedford Borough, statutory homelessness has increased from 141 to 287 households and rough sleeping has increased from 12 to 51 people.
Labour has warned that homelessness will not be significantly reduced unless the causes of rising homelessness in the last six years are addressed. The Party has released analysis showing how Conservative cuts and decisions since 2010 have led directly to higher homelessness:
- cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – thirteen separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between housing benefit for private renters (local housing allowance) and private rents;
- cuts to ‘supporting people’ which funds homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that this vital funding fell by 45% between 2010 and 2015;
- soaring private rents - averaging more than £2000 extra each year than at the same point 2010;
- the loss of affordable homes – with over 140,000 fewer council homes than in 2010, and the number of new government funded homes for started for social rent falling from nearly 40,000 in 2009/10 to less than 1,000 last year.
In Bedford Borough the ‘Help for Single Homeless’ initiative had provided a robust assessment process applied by Noah Enterprise and other agencies and enabled early identification of those new to the streets. It helped to fund deposits and rent in advance so people could access private rented sector properties. The funding to deliver ‘Help for Single Homeless’ came from Central Government and ended in July 2016 without a replacement. The loss of this service has had a significant impact on our ability to assist rough sleepers in Bedford.
Bedford Borough Labour Group Leader Sue Oliver said; “We back the cross-party Homelessness Reduction Bill to help get to grips with the scandal of rising homelessness across the country. However, between 2015/16 to 2019/20, the main Government grant to Bedford Borough Council will be cut from £30million to £5.8million – an 80% reduction. The Bill would strengthen the duties local councils have to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness – and rightly so – but we need to receive adequate funding to carry out these duties. This Bill must not be used as an excuse for the Conservative Government to devolve responsibilities to councils without proper funding, or to shift the blame to councils for the government’s failure on homelessness.”
“Ministers must also act now to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness – build more affordable housing, act on private renting and re-think the crude cuts to housing benefit for the most vulnerable.”