Covering the centre of London Westminster is home to rough sleepers from all over the country, many of whom have found themselves on the street due to the impact of the Conservative Government’s harsh housing and welfare policies across the UK. It is a rough sleeping challenge tougher than any other local authority.
Westminster's night-time street population, as assessed by the street count, has settled for the last six months at around 220 people. Once people are on Westminster's streets, with a complex mix of needs and understandable reticence about authority, helping them to take advantage of support services and find a path back to settled accommodation is extremely challenging. Given these complex needs, while Westminster Council both spends and receives more funding to tackle rough sleeping than other local authorities, it is deeply troubling that Westminster Conservatives have decided to remove £880,000 in funding last year and has removed another £2 million in their 2018/19 budget from the rough sleeping and supported housing teams. Labour believes that while taking steps to reform local provision the council should reinvest any savings in tackling the complex needs of entrenched homelessness.
If elected to run the council on May 3rd Labour will seek to halt and where possible reverse cuts to the rough sleeping and supported housing budget while the problems on Westminster's streets remain so severe. Under Labour Westminster will collaborate closely with the Mayor of London’s emerging strategies to tackle rough sleeping.
Building on existing relationships Labour would create a new Rough Sleeping Partnership comprising local and national charities as well as local residents and businesses to find new ways to provide support and housing initiatives, and for those ready to access it provide assistance with training and employment. This partnership would be one of the Lord Mayor’s standing charities. Labour will also explore the development of a Westminster Social Impact Bond to complement the Mayor of London’s efforts to tackle the most challenging issues in rough sleeping.
Rough sleeping had all but disappeared under the last Labour Government but has come back dramatically under the Conservatives.
Westminster's Labour's Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning Tim Roca said:
"Cutting the rough sleeping budget at a time when there are so many rough sleepers on our streets is symbolic of the skewed priorities of Westminster Conservatives. Labour will not walk by but work with partners locally and nationally to begin to tackle a problem Dickensian in its proportions."