Milton Keynes Council turning a ‘blind eye’ to homelessness claims outgoing Tory leader

Cllr Andrew Geary believes more money should be spent on tackling homelessness in the city
Cllr Andrew Geary believes more money should be spent on tackling homelessness in the city

Council leaders are turning ‘a blind eye’ to a homeless crisis engulfing MK – according to top city Tories.

Homelessness was the hot topic of discussion as MK Council’s 2018/19 budget was passed through at the Civic Offices last Wednesday.

Outgoing Conservative leader Andrew Geary slammed the Labour administration for refusing an amendment to put in an extra £2m to tackle homelessness.

Councillor Geary said the plans had been cleared as affordable by the authority’s finance director, and the council’s reserves should be spent on tackling the problem.

He said: “We put forward an investment of £2m to prevent and reduce homelessness with particular focus on rough sleepers and single people including the armed forces.

"Labour’s mantra is that MK Council is under the cosh due to years of government austerity. But, if things are so bad how come cash reserves have built up? Stashing the cash comes to mind.”

“It is simply indefensible to be sitting on £170m of cash reserves whilst turning a blind eye to this problem. The time for strategies has passed, now this Labour administration need to act.”

But council leader Pete Marland said the amendment was a stunt.

He said: “The Tories’ amendments were to spend reserves that have been set aside to make sure we can have a balanced budget if we overspend.

“Most of the reserves are for housing revenue, capital funds we can’t spend or cash for schools.

“The money we could actually spend is about £17m.

“Once we spend that, it’s gone. Northamptonshire County Council spent their reserves, and when the crunch comes they have not been able to balance their budget. It’s not necessarily sensible.”

After rejecting the amendment from the Conservatives, the Labour party said it would still be investing £4.5m tackling homelessness next year.

On March 6, the council is expected to adopt its Rough Sleeper Reduction Strategy. Focusing on accomodation first, it aims to vastly reduce rough sleeping by 2021.

The latest figures available to Milton Keynes Council indicate that there are currently 130 people who are rough sleeping across Milton Keynes