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EMBARGO: 24/03/18 0600
Labour pledges to tackle Birmingham's “homelessness crisis"
Challenges West Midlands Mayor to “start standing up for Birmingham” on housing and homelessness
The Labour party is pledging to tackle Birmingham's “homelessness crisis” and is challenging West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to “start standing up for Birmingham” on housing.
The party's new housing manifesto – to be launched on Saturday - pledges that a Labour-led Birmingham City Council will tackle Birmingham's homelessness crisis, including by putting a levy on commercial events taking place in the city centre to help pay for homeless prevention services.
The manifesto says that a Labour-led Birmingham City Council will end the use of unsuitable, unsafe and insanitary properties for temporary accommodation, introduce a quality standard for all properties used for temporary accommodation, and phase out the use of bed and breakfast as quickly as possible.
It also challenges Metro Mayor Andy Street to start standing up for Birmingham by backing demands from Birmingham's Labour MPs that the Tory Government scraps draconian benefit sanctions and lifts the unfair rules that stop Councils building new homes.
Speaking ahead of the manifesto launch, Cllr Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s homelessness ambassador, said:
“We are working hard to reduce homelessness within the city but are restricted by underfunded services as a result of Government cuts. Cross sector cuts, restrictive housing policies, Universal Credit requirements which delay payments are some of the systemic issues putting more citizens at risk of homelessness.
“The Government is increasingly pushing the financial burden of austerity onto local authorities who are already underfunded and struggling to deal with this national crisis. We will not standby silently on this agenda.
“We are committed to creating better outcomes and lobbying Government for properly funded initiatives to help people back into sustainable permanent homes. Our MPs are committed to challenging Tory Government broken policies and unfair cuts.
“Today’s Homelessness Manifesto Launch is a seal on our commitment to addressing the effects the national homelessness crisis is having on Birmingham.”
Birmingham Councillor and Labour Housing Group Executive Committee member John Cotton said:
"Birmingham, like the rest of the country, is dealing with the consequences of a housing crisis made in Downing Street. From the work to tackling homelessness to building new council homes, Labour-led Birmingham is showing the country that another way is possible. As the party's leading voice on housing issues, Labour Housing Group is proud to support the launch of Birmingham Labour's Homelessness Manifesto."
Also speaking ahead of the manifesto launch, Hodge Hill's Labour MP Liam Byrne said:
“Birmingham is facing a homeless crisis made in Downing Street. Eight years of savage spending cuts, failed housing policies, wage freezes, soaring private rental costs and brutal welfare changes perpetrated by the Tory Government have plunged hundreds of our fellow citizens into crisis.
“Labour will not stand idly by in the face of this crisis. Our Councillors in Birmingham will use all the resources and powers available locally to tackle the causes and symptoms of homelessness.
“Birmingham's 9 Labour MPs will fight for changes to Government policy and challenge the Tories’ failures at Westminster.
"We challenge Theresa May’s West Midlands Mayor to start standing up for the needs of Birmingham and its neighbours, rather than defending the appalling policies of the Tory Government in London."
For the seventh year in a row, the number of people forced to sleep rough on our streets has increased. Since the Tories came to power, rough sleeping in our country has increased by a staggering 169%, whilst 121,360 children are now living in temporary accommodation – a rise of 70% since 2010.
Ahead of the manifesto launch, Sharon, John and Liam have released a series of videos which lay out the scale of the problem, meet the people affected by homelessness and learn from those trying to fix the problem on the ground.
The third and final video, setting out the new pledges, will be released on Monday after the manifesto.
Notes to editors:
The Birmingham Labour Housing Manifesto will be launched on Saturday 24 March at an open meeting on on “Tackling the Homelessness Crisis” in the John Lee Theatre Room, Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS on Saturday 24 March, 10:45am to 3:00pm. John Healey, Shadow Housing Secretary, will be providing the keynote speech on the day.
The manifesto was agreed by the Labour Group on Birmingham City Council Please contact Cllr Sharon Thompson on email@example.com or 07860906291 if you would like to attend or would like further details.
Appendix - The Birmingham Labour Housing Manifesto
We pledge that a Labour-run Birmingham City Council will:
- Ensure no one needs to sleep rough on the streets
- We guarantee that there will continue to be sufficient bed spaces in shelters for everyone who needs one.
- We will continue to support outreach services and work in partnership with health, police and voluntary services across the city.
- Work with partners to prevent people Falling into homelessness in the first place, or help get them back into safe and secure housing as quickly as possible.
- End the use of unsuitable, unsafe and insanitary properties for temporary accommodation.
- We will introduce a quality standard for all properties used for temporary accommodation.
- We will phase out the use of bed and breakfast as quickly as possible
- Introduce a Charter of Rights for every citizen facing problems with homelessness: Every citizen will have a right to have their case handled swiftly and with respect by all public agencies.
- We will drive out practices that discriminate against homeless people and rough sleepers and strive to ensure that no one is made homeless as a result of leaving social housing.
- Increase practical and financial support for homelessness prevention services through Corporate Social Responsibility by applying a CSR levy on commercial events taking place in the city centre.
- Getting organisations signed up to Birmingham’s Business Charter for Social Responsibility to include homelessness within their social responsibility objectives.
- Ensure that victims of domestic violence are rapidly rehoused to a safe, decent and permanent home.
We pledge that Birmingham’s Labour MPs will:
- Campaign to end draconian benefit sanctions and delays to Universal Credit payments that are plunging people into poverty and crisis.
- Insist that Birmingham gets the funding it needs to properly implement the Homeless Reduction Act and to become an exemplar city in preventing homelessness.
- Demand the reintroduction of a fully-funded Social Fund to provide immediate support and help for people in crisis.
- Work to remove the Government rules that stop the Council getting the money it needs to invest in building new homes (i.e.: lifting the borrowing cap on the HRA).
- Get the Government to restore fair funding for Public Health, so vital services that tackle substance misuse and mental health are no longer put at risk.
- Campaign against harmful policies which put vulnerable adults at risk of homelessness.
And we will press the Tory West Midlands Mayor to:
- Start standing up for Birmingham by backing our Labour MPs demands that the Tory Government scraps draconian benefit sanctions and lifts the unfair rules that stop Councils building new homes.
- Support our plan to prevent homelessness in the first place, by opposing Government cuts and welfare changes such as the Bedroom Tax and backing our call for an urgent review of the current Local Housing Allowance rates.
- Back our call for a properly funded affordable, social rented and accessible housing solutions, including Housing First, so we can get everyone into a safe home that meets their needs.
- Insist all WMCA portfolios prioritise homelessness reduction through policy and strategy.
- Support our plans for modular build new housing, to provide us with the extra affordable homes our city desperately needs.
Birmingham's Labour MPs are:
- Preet Gill - Edgbaston
- Jack Dromey - Erdington
- Jess Phillips - Yardley
- Khalid Mahmood - Perry Barr
- Liam Byrne - Hodge Hill
- Richard Burden - Northfield
- Roger Godsiff - Hall Green
- Shabana Mahmood - Ladywood
- Steve McCabe - Selly Oak