Homelessness: Bexley councillor says governments have ‘made a pig’s ear’ of the issue

PUBLISHED: 11:08 23 April 2019

Cllr Alex Sawyer said homelessness is at the top of his agenda. Picture: Steve Hickey

Cllr Alex Sawyer said homelessness is at the top of his agenda. Picture: Steve Hickey


Homelessness has been dubbed the “biggest stain” on Britain by a Bexley councillor as he was questioned on how he was tackling the issue locally.

Communities cabinet member Alex Sawyer was pressed on how he was dealing with letting agents turning residents away when they discover they are on benefits.

Last year, charity Shelter and the National Housing Federation found one in 10 agents in England refused to let to those on benefits.

Bexley has 1,400 households living in temporary accommodation, some of whom have been placed in Dartford, Greenwich and Gravesham.

Speaking at a meeting on April 17, Cllr Sawyer said: “I work with the relevant officers and they work with those in the community to ensure as few of those people as possible fall into that trap.

“I'm not immune to the fact that successive governments have made a pig's ear of the issue of homelessness and house buildings.

“It is a stain on the character of the fifth largest economy on earth that we have got this issue so spectacularly wrong.

“The issue of homelessness is top of my agenda, not because of financial costs, but because of the sheer human costs of the wasted lives because of the number of lives lost to homelessness.

“When I have been in London I have not seen this level of homelessness since the 1980s. We need to do more to get people off the streets. So much more needs to be done and it needs to be done as a joined-up approach.”

The council already overspent by £1m this year dealing with pressures on housing, but agreed this week to increase the budget to stop similar problems in the coming 12 months.

The council is preparing to bring forward a new housing strategy to support its ambitious plans for growth featuring 31,000 homes by 2050.

Leader Teresa O'Neill said at the meeting: “This has got a resonance with our residents.

“Housing is costing us money, we can do things better and we have to do things better. We all need to be involved with this.”

The council has already proposed £5m extra to buy 17 new homes in the borough, with figures showing there are more than 2,000 children in temporary accommodation in Bexley.

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