Many people, myself included, were shocked to learn that over 40 people living in temporary accommodation in the City committed suicide in the past year. Every death is a personal tragedy but so many dying, often because of lack of support, must give us all cause for concern. With Fran Boait – Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Gloucester we will be calling on Richard Graham the City MP to initiate an investigation as to what are the causes of these tragic deaths and what remedies need to be put in place to stop this happening in future. Something is clearly going wrong and more must be done to ensure effective support is given to this most vulnerable group of people. It is not acceptable to keep placing vulnerable people in temporary accommodation without direct support from mental health, drugs, alcohol and counselling services. We also need to provide more hostel places and better temporary accommodation avoiding the use of often inadequate and costly Bed and Breakfast placements.
Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are also causing lively political debate across the City and I know many members attended the recent CLP meeting where this policy was discussed. There is concern that PSPO’s will be used to target rough sleepers and homeless individuals and prevent them from entering the City centre. Labour councillors have raised this twice with both the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Communities and we have received assurances that this is not the case. We will be pressing for this to be made clear in the final order if granted and make sure we monitor the situation closely as we move forward. Any attempts to socially cleanse our streets of rough sleepers and the homeless are unacceptable. Although a long way from perfect much of the PSPO does provide some solutions to problems caused by anti-social behaviour. We will be seeking greater clarification on some issues and some amendments to improve the order. We strongly urge you all to make your views known via the consultation. You can read the CLP position on the PSPO here.
Finally, Universal Credit (UC) is due to be introduced across the City from February this year. It is clear from areas around the country where UC has been rolled out that fundamental changes are needed to make it fit for purpose. Problems have arisen from the five-week wait for the first payment, payment of rent in arrears and payment directly to claimants rather than to landlords. These issues coupled with a further freeze on welfare benefits will inevitably lead to increased poverty and homelessness. I am worried that social services and our voluntary sector is not sufficiently resourced to deal with this and that many people still seem totally unaware of what will happen when UC is introduced. Again, this an area which we will keep a very close eye on.
Leader, Labour Group at Gloucester City Council