Urgent calls to help homeless this winter ‘choked off’

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Urgent calls to help the 
homeless this winter have been ignored after a public debate was ‘choked off’, according to some councillors.

With winter approaching fast, pressure has been put on Warwick District Council to do more to help the homeless.

Earlier this year Warwickshire County Council made housing-related cuts, which included those provided to homeless people, which left three properties in Warwick and Leamington set for closure.

Labour councillor Colin Quinney said: “Many people in our district are forced to sofa surf, share rooms or live in hostels because they cannot get the housing they need and can afford. The latest cuts by Warwickshire County Council in this district mean that we’re losing 50 per cent of our beds for vulnerable people, often young adults and including ex-servicemen and women. We already have 3,000 local residents on the waiting list and this will simply have a knock-on effect and make the situation worse for everyone.”

He also added that the current amount of people who are housed in temporary ‘B&B’ accommodation is rising and could cost the council an addition £50,000.

At the district council meeting on Wednesday Cllr Quinney planned to put forward two motions. One proposing the council should maintain and increase transitional housing. The second proposed to offer overnight accommodation to people sleeping rough when the temperature falls below zero degree C for one night instead of the current three consecutive nights.

The increase of housing motion was not discussed and the second motion was outvoted.

Cllr Quinney said: “I was very disappointed by the disgraceful behaviour of an administration which choked off the public debate in full council of such an important and we hoped, cross-party 
issue.”

South Leamington Labour councillor Kristie Naimo said: “Local feeling supported the sentiment of this motion as seen by the 100 residents who chose to sleep outdoors last Friday in support of rough sleepers at the winter sleep-out organised by Helping Hands. It was very disappointing not to have support for these important issues facing our district.”

Conservative councillor Peter Phillips, Warwick District Council portfolio holder for housing and property services, said: “The two Labour-councillor motions appear to offer short-term palliatives so as to score political points, rather than to offer sensible solutions. Their proposals are inflexible and don’t respond to the changing needs of homelessness and rough sleeping in the district. Unfortunately, the motions are also confused, mixing county council, voluntary sector and district council responsibilities, making the suggestions practically useless.

“All councillors know that officers were asked by the executive earlier in the autumn to carry out a complete review of housing and how we help the homeless, and rough sleepers.

“This will pull the various strands into one coherent approach, as well as help address the underlying issues – some, but not all, related to drug and alcohol abuse. The report will go for cross-party review at the Housing Advisory Group before coming to executive for approval in early 2017.”