Newly-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could be plunged in at the deep end in Milton Keynes – by helping to solve the escalating homelessness crisis.
Council leader Pete Marland has fired off a letter to his party’s head inviting him to tour the borough and view its housing problems first hand.
His invitation was extended within hours of Jeremy being elected – in a week when research exposed Milton Keynes as one of the worst areas to be homeless in the south of England.
Here, 100 per cent of households accepted as homeless have to be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation. Yet the national average is just eight per cent.
“There is a stark difference,” admitted council officers in a special housing allocations report on Monday.
The report showed MK dealt with 620 genuine and priority homeless applications last year. This compares to 151 in Aylesbury Vale, 154 in Bedford, 110 in Oxford, 65 in Stevenage and 461 in Luton.
The borough has more than 6,000 fewer properties than neighbouring Central Beds – but demand for housing is a whopping 358 per cent higher. And while other areas are seeing a decrease in homeless application, the numbers in Milton Keynes are rocketing. The report sets out ideas to ease the crisis. These include more incentives for private landlords to take tenants on housing benefit, a review of the qualifying criteria for homelessness, and more leeway for MK Development Partnership to build affordable homes on its land without needing to seek best value.
The most radical idea is the consideration of compulsory purchase of empty privately-owned properties.
The council could also be making a plea to the government for more cash top spend on housing.This week city MPs Iain Stewart and Mark Lancaster added their weight to the homeless debate by speaking to the relevant government ministers.
Iain Stewart said: “It is deeply upsetting that every day my office is receiving more and more calls from families who are being put up in hotels as far away as Birmingham and Reading.”
Said Pete Marland: “People think of places south of London as affluent. Yet people, including Jeremy Corbyn, need to realise that we have problems of deprivation and homelessness just as bad as some of the poor areas in the north.”