As the custodians of central London, we recognise that vulnerable people who feel they have nowhere to turn will often find themselves on our streets. It is for exactly this reason that we invest £9million a year on homelessness provision – more than any other local authority in the country.
London’s streets, are no place for people to live in the 21st century and we fully accept our duty to support and care for people. As a local authority, we are committed to providing services that improve lives. These services must be as open and accessible as possible.
For that reason, our aim is a simple one: get people off the streets and engaged with services that can help turn their lives around.
Every year we help more than 1,000 rough sleepers off the streets. This is achieved through the extensive work done to address the complex needs of rough sleepers including drug and alcohol abuse services, initiatives to reconnect them with family members, counselling, training for employment, literacy programmes and of course accommodation.
We have also been successful in reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets in the capital in recent years. While there is more work to do, compared with the situation in 2004 there are now fewer than half the number of people sleeping rough in Westminster.
However as people have moved off the streets, the number of soup runs in the Victoria area has increased. Despite all our efforts over the last decade to resolve the issue with soup run providers, the frequency and concentration of soup runs around the Westminster Cathedral Piazza have increased. That is why our proposals relate to just one small part of the city.
Soup run providers come from all over London and beyond to deliver food and drink in the Piazza area and they attract homeless people from across the city who would be better off accessing public and voluntary sector services within their own communities.
Those who give up their time to help people who need food should be applauded, but we believe they can make a far better impact if look for other ways to help the homeless and put their energy to good use, without delivering food on the streets. We are prepared to help individuals and organisations fulfil that goal.
Finally, we would like to stress that our proposals are at the consultation stage and we are encouraging people to make their voices heard. We will then assess the responses before taking any request for permission to introduce a byelaw to the Department for Communities and Local Government should such a proposal be voted for at a meeting of our full council.
At this stage we still hope to be able to work with soup run providers to reach a solution that is right for all parties without the need for any formal legislation.