Since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled sadly, a crisis that we can see locally dramatically around London Bridge and the Elephant and Castle in particular. I believe the homeless crisis is a national shame but epitomises how the Coalition and Tory Governments in the last eight years have massively let down the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. The housing crisis has not just been ignored, it has been exacerbated by:
– redefining ‘affordable’ homes in a way that took many out of people’s reach and cutting funding for affordable housebuilding;
– inaction on private rented sector rogue landlords and ripoffs;
– local authority budget cuts;
– taking an axe to homelessness, mental health and drug and alcohol cessation services; and
– targeting the least well off and unwell for pernicious benefit cuts.
In office, Labour radically reduced homelessness and our 2017 manifesto pledged to end rough sleeping. I am proud that the Labour Party is committed to building one million genuinely affordable homes. I chair the all party parliamentary group on ending homelessness and work closely with the charity sector locally and nationally on this issue. However, without sustained and concerted efforts from the Government in partnership with councils and other services, the problem will worsen.
Last year, following the tragedy at Grenfell, the housing charity Shelter launched a new cross-party commission to scrutinise social housing in Britain and its potential role in ending the housing crisis. The commission has published a report calling for the biggest council and social housebuilding programme in history. They estimate that more than 3 million homes will need to be built in the next 20 years and I hope a Labour Government in partnership with local authorities, housing associations and mutuals will help deliver that ambition.
The Government needs to be held to account for increasing homelessness every year since 2010. The housing and homelessness crisis has worsened under Cameron, Clegg and May and only Labour can turn this around and deliver the homes we need in Southwark and across the country.