A 21st century scandal

27th November, 2012 10:30 am

There is no more visible and tragic sign of the failure of housing policy than people sleeping rough on our streets. It is a scandal that in the twenty-first century, in one of the richest cities in the world, there are people still forced to sleep rough on London’s streets.

In 2009 Boris Johnson made a bold pledge to end rough sleeping in London by the end of 2012. He reiterated this pledge during his re-election campaign in May this year. Yet with a little over a month to go until his self-imposed deadline he admitted to me at Mayor’s Question Time last week that he will not succeed.

The number of people sleeping rough on London’s streets has increased every year since Johnson took office in 2008. According to Broadway, the number of people seen sleeping rough more than doubled between 2008 and 2012, whilst the number of people seen sleeping rough more than once jumped by more than a quarter. This second statistic is even more troubling given the mayor’s No Second Night Out Scheme, which is supposed to ensure that no one found sleeping rough will sleep out for more than one night. In June, the mayor told my colleague Nicky Gavron that the No Second Night Out scheme was “working well”. Something is clearly going very wrong.

As is so often the case, the mayor is full of warm words and grandiose promises, but totally lacking in leadership. The mayor has nearly £34 million to tackle rough sleeping over four years. Worryingly, around £5 million of that appears to be missing from his budget and unaccounted for.

The government’s decision to cut the Supporting People budget, given to local authorities to fund services such as hostels, by 11% has only compounded the problem. Across London twelve hostels or day centres have closed and there are 784 fewer bed spaces.

Johnson is very good at big announcements and warm words. But the bolder the pledge, the more serious the issue, the more important it is that you deliver. While campaigning for re-election just six months ago the mayor was confident that he would fulfil his pledge. When I pressed him as to precisely when he realised he would not be able to fulfil it, he said he could not give me an answer. Some may well conclude from this that he knew full well during the election that he would not be able to deliver on his promise but campaigned on it anyway.

Boris Johnson has shown an astonishing lack of leadership on this issue. It took him more than a year following the consultation to publish his framework for the commissioning of services for people who sleep rough, meaning services have been running on an ad hoc basis. With such a laid back approach is it any wonder that there are 2,000 more people sleeping rough on London’s streets than when he took office?

Tom Copley is a Labour London Assembly Member, follow him on Twitter @tomcopley, Facebook facebook.com/copleyt and at tomcopley.com

Latest

  • Featured News Tony Blair hits out at Corbyn’s “politics of parallel reality”

    Tony Blair hits out at Corbyn’s “politics of parallel reality”

    Tony Blair has made a new intervention in the Labour leadership contest with an article in today’s Observer, which the paper has splashed with on the front page: The former Labour Prime Minister confesses that he doesn’t “get” frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity, but claims that he is “trying hard” to understand it, and compares it to similar waves of support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US presidential race. Blair also says he appreciates that his advice against […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Unions Anti-trade union legislation could face legal challenge for contravening human rights

    Anti-trade union legislation could face legal challenge for contravening human rights

    Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is ready to raise the prospect of challenging the Tories’ proposed anti-trade union laws in the courts, claiming it might contravene human rights legislation. Cooper says she has received legal advice that points to potential breaches of Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which preserves the right of freedom of association, including trade unions. The leadership contender will accuse the Conservatives of trying to use their position to cripple the opposition with […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Labour have been “in denial” about threat from UKIP, says Dan Jarvis

    Labour have been “in denial” about threat from UKIP, says Dan Jarvis

    Dan Jarvis has slammed Labour for being “in denial” about the threat caused by UKIP, in a new report published this weekend. ‘Reconnecting Labour’, which was commissioned by Andy Burnham in July as part of his campaign to become leader, looks specifically at how Labour wins back votes lost to the anti-EU party. Jarvis raises concerns that the EU referendum a new high-profile platform that could cause further problems for Labour. He says that Labour were too relaxed about the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Labour leadership contest: too much politics and not enough personality

    The Labour leadership contest: too much politics and not enough personality

    Our recent prime ministers were not elected to lead their parties following general election defeats, and there are many problems with electing leaders whilst on the rebound. One of the biggest is that everyone is still in General Election Mode, presenting manifestos rather than their qualities as a leader. Policies and ideas are not wedded to any one person – any candidate could institute a policy suggested by any other candidate. Having good ideas qualifies one for the top table, […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What lessons does Lynton Crosby have for Labour?

    What lessons does Lynton Crosby have for Labour?

    After May’s general election, it appeared everyone in the party who tweeted or blogged was sure they knew why Labour had lost. By some weird coincidence, these opinions always seemed to mirror the prejudices of the author. You know the type of thing – our policies were too right wing, our policies were too left wing, our policies were too centrist, etc. Not very enlightening. So, to get a more balanced view, I turned to Lynton Crosby. I appreciate that’s […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit