Fewer councils took part in formal national count
Drop in rough sleeping numbers does not add up, say Conservatives
The government has come under fire after it emerged that this year’s drop in the number of rough sleepers was accompanied by a fall in the number of councils holding formal counts.
The national rough sleeping estimates, published by the Communities and Local Government department last month, revealed a small drop from 498 to 483.
But the information is based solely on street counts from councils and nine fewer carried out official counts this year.
If two of the councils included in the 2007 figures had carried out new counts with similar results, the total could have been 500 or higher. One council that did not contribute to the 2008 estimate was Weymouth, which reported 10 rough sleepers in 2007 – its highest ever number.
CLG guidance requires councils counting more than 10 rough sleepers to conduct a further count, but does not specify what those recording 10 exactly should do.
Conservative shadow housing minister Grant Shapps said he was ‘deeply concerned’ that the government had not made changes to the system. He made his first criticisms of the counting system last year (Inside Housing, 15 November).
‘It seems this year’s figures could underestimate the number even further, once again preventing rough sleeping from getting the attention it deserves,’ he told Inside Housing.
But a spokesperson for the CLG said there had been a consistent reduction in the number of people sleeping on the streets.
‘There is a well-established methodology for measuring rough sleeping, which was developed in conjunction with the voluntary sector, including Shelter, and has been examined in detail twice by the National Audit Office and more recently by the select committee and has passed with flying colours.’