Mayor's manifesto commitments (Supplementary) [5]

Session date: 
December 7, 2016
Question By: 
Leonie Cooper
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development

Question

Leonie Cooper AM:  Can I just say, Deputy Mayor,  that it is very welcome to have you here today and preceded by the Minister?  It has been a good morning talking about housing, which is such a crucial issue for our city.  At the sharp end of housing is homelessness, which is the area I wanted to ask you about.

 

Assembly Member Copley and I will be moving a motion later on this morning on homelessness because it has been very much on the increase, particularly in London.  I just wondered if you had managed to have any discussions with the DCLG with regard to suitable funding coming towards local authorities to assist with their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

 

Answer

Answer for Mayor's manifesto commitments (Supplementary) [5]

Answer for Mayor's manifesto commitments (Supplementary) [5]

Answered By: 
James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development

Leonie Cooper AM:  Can I just say, Deputy Mayor,  that it is very welcome to have you here today and preceded by the Minister?  It has been a good morning talking about housing, which is such a crucial issue for our city.  At the sharp end of housing is homelessness, which is the area I wanted to ask you about.

 

Assembly Member Copley and I will be moving a motion later on this morning on homelessness because it has been very much on the increase, particularly in London.  I just wondered if you had managed to have any discussions with the DCLG with regard to suitable funding coming towards local authorities to assist with their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

 

James Murray (Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development):  Yes.  In terms of addressing specifically the Homelessness Reduction Bill, I had discussions with Bob Blackman, the MP who is sponsoring it in a Private Members Bill.  We have had discussions over the summer and into the autumn, basically for me to understand where he is coming from and for me to feed back any issues we are picking up from councils.  As you say, one issue local authorities have is about having the right resources to be able to deal with it and Bob [Blackman] and the Government understand that.  Certainly, from speaking to Crisis and others in the sector, the Bill is in a pretty good position now.  Some of the earlier concerns have very much been taken on board and people understand where the further concerns about resources still lie.  That is positive.

 

It is not always possible to separate them out but broadly speaking, to separate out rough sleeping and homelessness more generally because they have quite different interventions, in terms of rough sleeping, I covered that in my responses earlier on about the rough sleeping funds.  There is the other issue - connected, but slightly separate - about homelessness more broadly and about families being put into temporary accommodation.  One other thing that we have been doing over summer with our local authorities across London is assembling their housing directors together to try to get a joint approach or a common approach in terms of dealing with the costs of temporary accommodation, which we know are not entirely covered by funding from that Government.  It means that local councils have to end up spending quite a lot of their own money that they would otherwise pay on other services in terms of funding those costs.  There is a piece of work to be done there.  It is a particularly thorny issue, not that any issue is not thorny in housing, but ‑‑

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  That particular piece of work is not yet complete?  The number of families in bed-and-breakfasts has increased everywhere across London and so that falls on the general fund, as you say, given the hard-pressed nature of local authority finances in general.  That is a piece of work not yet complete?

 

James Murray (Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development):  It is ongoing.  What we said to local authorities is, “We want to help you, but the GLA does not have any formal role here and so we need to work out how can we best support you.  What would be helpful?”  The last thing we want to do is barge in there and ruin any goodwill.  What we have been doing over summer is having a series of meetings with the housing directors to work out what useful co-ordination effort the GLA can play in the immediate run and in the medium term.

 

From our point of view, we do not want to, as I say, storm in there with a great solution that no one signs up to, particularly when it is impacting on individual councils’ general funds and it is about something as emotive as homelessness.  People want to make sure we get it right and so we have been taking it slowly with them, but we are committed to working with them to improve the situation.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you.