By Cllr Sam Stopp, Chair – LCEH
The recent passage of the Homelessness Reduction Bill beyond its second reading in the House of Commons is a victory for homelessness campaigners and the people we fight for.
LCEH willingly wrote to all Labour MPs to encourage them to vote in favour of the Bill and we were heartened that so many of them did so. Our strategy was coordinated in tandem with the homelessness charity, Crisis, who have been extremely effective lobbyists on this and other bills.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill is not perfect. As a local councillor, I’m particularly concerned by the way in which the Bill puts excessive onus on local government to re-home people. This strategy has worked very well in Wales, but the problem for many councils in England is that their budgets have been so severely cut by central government that they simply cannot afford to take on additional responsibilities such as this.
Now that Labour MPs have done their duty in the Commons, our attention will therefore turn to holding the Government’s feet to the fire as the bill passes through the subsequent stages in Parliament. It cannot be forgotten that it was the Tories who caused the homelessness crisis, and we should therefore be sceptical about their willingness not to water down the Bill as it is debated further.
Nevertheless, to end homelessness – not merely reduce it – we need a Labour government. Our campaign will continue to lobby the Labour Party to make a manifesto commitment to end homelessness. So far, we have been supported in this aim by many MPs, AMs, councillors, trade unionists and Labour members. We need to build a critical mass of support for this in order to get the Party to sit up and take notice.
In the end, the fight to end homelessness leads to Parliament.