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Blackman hints at ‘good news’ about extra homelessness funding

The Homelessness Reduction Bill could receive additional funding from the government to deliver it, the MP behind the legislation said as it was debated in the House of Commons today.

Bob Blackman MP, a vice-president of the LGA, introduced the Private Members Bill after the Communities and Local Government Committee, on which he sits, published a report on the extent of the country’s homelessness problem.

Blackman stated today: “When employment is at the highest level ever and we have a relatively low level of unemployment, having one single person sleeping rough on our streets is a national disgrace that we must combat.”

He said that the “norm” was local authorities not doing a good job to prevent homelessness, and that the Bill, which requires them to help eligible people at risk of homelessness secure accommodation 56 days before eviction, would “ensure that they do not pass the buck”.

But he admitted: “There will be an increase in costs associated with the help and advice, and prevention duties. Clearly, that needs to be funded by the government. I am sure we will hear good news from the government when the wind-up speeches take place.”

He said that the Bill would save money for local authorities in the long term, with £370m savings achieved if 40,000 people were prevented from experiencing a year of homelessness.

MPs from all parties welcomed the Bill, which has received the support of both the government and opposition. Dr Tania Mathias, for the Conservatives, said it would “allow local housing staff to express more of their innate compassion and kindness”. Labour’s Emma Reynolds also said she “fully supported” the Bill.

However, MPs echoed warnings from the LGA that the responsibilities in the Bill could place additional pressure on council funds at a time when they are already facing funding shortfalls.

Labour’s John Healey argued: “If the government are serious about this Bill, and if ministers mean what they say about homelessness, they must do two things: fund the cost of the extra duties in the Bill in full, and tackle the causes of the growing homelessness crisis in this country.”

Mark Prisk, a Conservative MP and former housing minister, also said that “many councils will require additional funding in order to fulfil these new commitments”.

(Image c. Jonathan Brady from PA Archive)

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