If elected to run the Council on May 3rd Labour will scrap Westminster’s current cruel homelessness strategy and instead work to ensure that Westminster residents who need temporary accommodation are supported closer to home where ever possible. Labour will seek to amend current banding structure to give long standing local residents of Westminster greater preference within the system, and look at ways to improve assistance to those who rely on family and friends for their support needs or who have children in local schools (rather than helping only those taking exams).
Where private sector options are required to provide temporary accommodation, Labour would work to ensure that previously longstanding residents of Westminster would be able to remain on the housing waiting list if they chose. Where placements have to be made outside of Westminster, a Labour council would seek to do more to inform the receiving boroughs about any family support needs in order to protect the most vulnerable.
We will look to implement the new Homelessness Reduction Act fairly and will seek resources to improve our housing advice and homelessness prevention services.
Labour’s proposed Westminster Housing Commission would undertake an urgent review of Westminster Council’s approach to homelessness that would be overseen by Housing Commission Vice-Chair and former Chief Executive of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K).
Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “The impact of the Conservative Government’s cruel housing and benefits policies are causing problems for many local authorities trying to deal with statutory homelessness however Westminster is widely seen as draconian in its approach. The long-term answer is provided by Labour’s social housing plans but there needs to be an urgent review of how the council is managing the problem. I’m delighted that someone with the independence and expertise that Joanna Kennedy brings would lead that review to ensure Westminster protects some of its most vulnerable residents.”
This policy announcement relates to statutory homelessness, new announcements on rough sleeping will be announced shortly.
The Conservative Council’s Strategy introduced last year created three priority categories: Band 1 for those with significant care needs should be housed in or near Westminster; Band 2 for those in long-term work or with children taking major exams can be housed elsewhere in greater London and Band 3 who can potentially be housed elsewhere in the country. While in practice Council officers have so far showed some flexibility to allow more people to remain in Greater London, the policy continues to carry real risks.