Two of Croydon’s MPs have been in a spat over the details of the Tory Government’s latest initiative to help the homeless, after Croydon South Conservative MP Chris Philp was wheeled out for the broadcast media on Sunday night and claimed that the £100million fund was “new money”.
Philp’s claim was contradicted on Monday morning by the Tory housing minister, James Brokenshire.
This prompted Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central and the shadow housing minister, to say she was “shocked” to discover that half of the money had already committed to tackling homelessness. The rest comes from “reprioritisation”, meaning cuts and underspends elsewhere.
When in the BBC radio studio on Sunday, broadcasting to the nation, Philp also claimed, twice, that the number of rough sleepers is lower now than when the Tories came to power. This, too, is blatantly untrue.
In fact – and according to Philp’s own Government’s official figures – while the number of rough sleepers in England and Wales was reduced under the previous Labour Government, since the Tories came in in 2010, the numbers forced to sleep on the streets has risen by 169 per cent.
Philp’s gone a bit quiet since.
The Conservatives, and their LibDem facilitators in the first five years of the Tory-led Government, have an appalling record on homelessness.
The number of people sleeping rough has risen by 50 per cent in five years. Figures show that more than 4,750 people are today sleeping rough in England.
The situation in Croydon has been made worse since the borough was used as a trial area for the roll out of Universal Credit, which many working with the homeless identify as being a significant cause of people who were living in private rented accommodation being made homeless.
And Jones and other opposition figures suggest that by reallocating funds from other, related social care programmes – mental health, addiction and housing – the £100million fund announced this week will just be spread too thinly over a national scandal.
Today, Tom Copley, Labour’s housing spokesperson at the London Assembly, said, “The money announced today will be used to try to fire-fight the dreadful and predictable consequences of the government’s welfare cuts, which have been the one of the drivers of rising homelessness.
“£100million of funding spread thinly nationwide over the next 10 years is clearly insufficient. The Mayor of London has recently calculated that £574million is needed, in London alone, over the next five years to get to grips with rough sleeping.
“It is imperative that they tackle the root causes of homelessness by reversing the pernicious cuts that they have handed down to already cash-strapped local authorities, and their disastrous welfare reforms, such as the roll-out of Universal Credit.
“There is also the pressing issue of hidden homelessness, with thousands stuck in temporary accommodation in London. If the government are serious about turning this increasingly desperate situation around, they need to start adequately investing in the genuinely affordable homes that Londoners need.”
Copley’s views appeared to be reflected by comments on the funding from homeless charities. The chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, said it was clearly “a step forward”, but not “a total fix for homelessness.”
Neate said: “We still need to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, deep instability of renting and problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home.”
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