Government's new rough sleeping strategy is not enough for Milton Keynes, say councillors

Rough sleeping in Milton Keynes
Rough sleeping in Milton Keynes

The government's new Rough Sleeping Strategy that awards £239,000 to Milton Keynes has been welcomed by city MPs - but rubbished by Labour council leaders.

The money, designed to get rough sleepers off the streets and into homes, is a " public relations exercise" and does not provide a long-term solution, says council leader Pete Marland.

He claims the £239,000 is nothing new, as it was already allocated to MK before the government's declaration was made this week.

Pete said: "The announcement by the Government does nothing to address the needs of the 566 families who were in temporary accommodation over the weekend. It does nothing to stop the weekly evictions of families by private landlords and nothing to increase the amount of truly affordable housing locally.

He added, “What we need is for the Government to remove the block on our ability to build new truly affordable council housing. But Government Ministers and the local Tory MPs have consistently refused to remove the cap on our ability to build new homes. The Governments latest announcement is another Public Relations exercise, where

they recycle already agreed funds.

But Milton Keynes MPs Iain Stewart and Mark Lancaster have welcomed the strategy, which focuses on homelessness prevention, intervention and recovery.

It aims to to end rough sleeping entirely by 2027.

Iain said: “Tackling all aspects of homelessness is a big part of our plan for Milton Keynes. Too many people have been sleeping rough over the past few years. This agreed, cross government strategy will provide a framework for all the relevant stakeholders working in this area, be that a local authority or a charity, to properly address the complex issues that come with rough sleeping.”

MK North MP Mark Lancaster said: “We have been making real strides in bringing down the number of rough sleepers in Milton Keynes. The Government have given Milton Keynes Council additional funding and they now seem to have got a grip of the situation. Iain and I have been working closely with the Homelessness Partnership and we have been regularly discussing the matter with ministers. We want to eradicate rough sleeping in Milton Keynes much before 2027 and if we continue to work together I am confident we will.”

The government has also pledged to support Housing First pilot projects to tackle rough sleepers. But according to MK's Cabinet member of rhousing, councillor Nigel Long, this is too little too late.

Nigel said: We have been operating a Housing First service for 6 months and it is beginning solve the street homelessness challenge. Last Friday there were 62 rough sleepers in specialist temporary accommodation getting care and support as well as accommodation.

"So we welcome this approach but £239,000 for one year will not address either street homelessness or the bigger problem of the 566 families in mainstream temporary accommodation."