Saturday, 28 February 2015

Shapps attacks 'ludicrous' council over homeless

The housing minister has accused England’s largest council of being ‘ludicrous’ for reporting just nine rough sleepers in its annual street count.

Grant Shapps spoke out after he was challenged at a conference about the low number of rough sleepers reported by Birmingham Council in rough sleeping counts.

The council, which is the biggest local authority landlord in England and is run by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, recorded just nine rough sleepers in the last count carried out in autumn 2010.

This compares to 23 reported in Bradford, 14 in Harrogate and 14 in Wychavon. It is the same number as that reported in leafy Tunbridge Wells.

Mr Shapps said: ‘For Birmingham to say it only has nine [rough sleepers] is ludicrous in my view.’

He added that solving rough sleeping ‘requires lots of political will’. He said London was currently leading the way in tackling rough sleeping because of the commitment of mayor Boris Johnson.

He added: ‘Where-ever you are if there is some assistance required, Birmingham being an obvious example, come to me and I will try to put pressure on towns and cities to provide that political leadership.’

Mr Shapps, who was speaking at a conference organised by Homeless Link on Wednesday, was also challenged by audience members over the impact that government housing benefit reforms will have on homelessness.

In response he stated that failing to tackle the deficit would have the worst possible impact on homelessness in the long-term.

‘I am not arguing that these things [benefit reform] will not have an impact,’ he said. ‘Of course they will. That is why we have quadrupled the discretionary fund [available to councils to support people in housing difficulty].’

The reforms to housing benefit are also incremental with Universal Credit not introduced until 2013, he said.

But he added: ‘It [housing benefit] has become such a mess that I am afraid that getting there is difficult and involves quite a bit of turmoil on the way.

‘Our job is to try and ensure that this doesn’t lead to a huge rise in homelessness. We are historically in a good place as far as homeless acceptances are concerned.’

As Inside Housing reported yesterday Mr Shapps used the conference to outline how the government is planning to spend £37.5 million funding from its Homeless Change Programme to provide new hostel bed spaces – and reveal that the government would now provide the programme with an additional £5 million.

Readers' comments (22)

  • Gavin Rider

    Grant Shapps providing political leadership?

    Pigs might fly.

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  • McMadman

    How about a headline

    "Entire Social Rented Housing Sector attacks Housing Minister Shapps."

    The article could mention:

    "In a hitherto unparalleled show of unity, the entire sector unanimously described Schapps as displaying, variously, a mix of the most profound levels of ignorance, intolerance, pmpous verbosity and ludicrous self belief in his own ability and knowledge, which seems at odds with the fact that so far his public utterances and written comments have displayed that what he knows about housing could be written on the back of a postage stamp"

    Oy. IH. Gizza Job. I could write a few articles you know, I mean apologies for the typos but you got spellchecker, aint ya ?

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  • F451

    It is a little known fact that one of the origins of the surname Pickles is the ancient form Pig Hill - in this case it is fairly certain that pigs may fly but only for a very brief moment and only then if they fell off of the hill.

    This is probably one of the most honest statements from Shapps - he accepts his policy will cause homeless, he believes he has deployed resources to deal with that, he accepts that the collective policy of his party is causing turmoil, but he believes it will all be worth it in the end.

    Not that he needs my advice, but if he stuck to this angle and level of 'truth' then he may find growing support replaces the derision that meets his normal wild and wacky statements. I wonder if he has changed advisors and is now in a safer pair of hands.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Here is a bit of advice for Mr Shapps -

    1) get rid of parasitic Buy-to-Let investment, which causes significant house price inflation and depletes the market of affordable properties.

    2) tax second-home ownership so that it is no longer an effective financial investment, because property is only a worthwhile investment while there is house price inflation constantly driving up the value of the property.

    3) remove tax breaks that allow property investment to be treated as a pension contribution, thereby giving tax relief on the initial investment and removing the capital gains charge when the property is sold.

    These measures will deflate the housing market at a stroke and inject a significant supply of affordable housing into the market without having to sacrifice a single farmer's field, school playing field or the grounds of any hospital to the developers.

    Coastal communities that become like ghost towns out of season because many of the properties are owned by rich outsiders as second homes may actually start to regenerate a permanent resident community again, helping to sustain local services and businesses.

    You know it makes sense.

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  • Of course I'm sure Boris is concerned about homeless people because he is an extraordinarily philanthropic Tory.

    I doubt it's crossed his mind that there's an Olympic games in London next year.....or that he's coming up for re-election some time soon.

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  • Gavin Rider

    F451 - I think you are giving Shapps a little too much respect. did you see how he handled the interview about the NPPF on Newsnight?

    I understand that in politics there is an art to always trying to portray your policies in a positive light despite having negatives thrown at you, but lying through ones teeth by effectively saying black is white is not politics, it is fraud on the electorate.

    Shapps is a fraud, his policies are a fraud and I would not trust him as far as I could throw him, even if that were off Beachy Head.

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  • F451

    Not to worry Gavin - I've not gone through some super-hero teleport and reversed my views about Shapps. However, I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, and in this instance, relating to his Minister's Brief rather than proving to his boss how tough and tory he is, he has taken a reasonable line describing his approach, his understanding and estimation of the effects, and his long term hopes.

    I'm sure he will soon come along with another gaffe and sink himself (it's friday tommorrow and he always likes to get one in before the weekend!)

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  • Gavin Rider

    A snake is a snake as far as I am concerned and I don't trust him.

    If he appears to be making sense it is more likely that he has been misunderstood than that he has had an adjustment of his calibration by a better "advisor".

    To me the test of a politician's mettle is when he is put on the spot and has to answer questions without the benefit of carefully prepared speeches that carry deliberately contrived double meanings. Shapps could not handle straight questioning and was forced to reply with stock responses that made no sense whatsoever. When he couldn't do that, he lied directly.

    That means the man has no principles worth talking about, and on the few he does have he cannot be trusted.

    Not that I want to be overly critical, you understand.

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  • F451

    That is precisely why I have been imploring the media to stop soft handling him and ask him the questions they have to date avoided doing. As you have witnessed, he can not cope without control, and has no answers other than a few spun points. It is this shallowness that reflects in his policy, and will be his downfall.

    There are many ways for truth to surface - this article and the responses to it have shown two relating to the Minister, at least.

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  • Finger on the pulse as ever, Shappsy. The minister is right to chastise Birmingham for massaging the statistics and will presumably not rest easy until the streets of the nation, from Brum to leafy Tunbridge Wells are strewn with the grubby sleeping bags and cardboard boxes of the homeless. Not long to wait, I fear. Is anyone else out there struck by the irony of this man having been christened "Grant"?

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