Cllr Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet adviser for homelessness, outlines the measures being taken to tackle the homelessness crisis.
With unseasonably cold weather affecting much of Birmingham recently, increasing numbers of rough sleepers have been on the frontline facing the freezing temperatures.
Since 2010, rough sleeping has increased by 169% nationally and is a major issue in Birmingham. With challenging times ahead of us with the roll out of Universal Credit, the Homelessness Reduction Act and changes to supported housing, they also give us opportunities to make an impact on preventing homelessness and supporting vulnerable citizens.
We are inputting into national and regional initiatives to help shape the national picture to reflect the needs of Birmingham.
Encouragingly, 2017 figures are showing that these coordinated interventions made through partnership programmes and action taken by the Council are making an impact.
The work achieved by the Homelessness Partnership Board is one of the key reasons for this change. Established by the Council last year, with over 30 individuals from across different sectors, the board is responsible for implementing Birmingham’s newly approved Homelessness Prevention Strategy and driving a coordinated system of change for homelessness.
The Homelessness Prevention Strategy seeks to tackle and prevent homelessness at the earliest opportunity. Signed off by every cabinet member, it is recognised that homelessness is not just an issue for Housing and Health.
Homelessness in Birmingham is a priority and one which has seen the Council facing a big culture change in its approach. Part of this includes enacting the following projects that have been specifically created to help tackle the issue:
- A Corporate Directorate Board has been created to ensure the entire council considers and prioritises homelessness.
- We have established a multi-agency co located Street Intervention Team to respond to rough sleeping and associated activity.
- We have taken the lead on developing the regional bid for Housing First pilot in the West.
- The leader of the council, cabinet members for homes and housing, community safety and equalities and the ambassador for addressing homelessness, have all written to the Chancellor to raise concerns about the issues surrounding Universal Credit and housing allowances.
- In conjunction with West Midlands Combined Authority, we have launched, ‘Change into Action’, an alternative giving scheme which supports specialist charities and Street Link teams that work to change the circumstances of rough sleepers.
For the first time in four years, 2017 figures do not show a sharp increase in the number of rough sleepers. However, to begin the drive towards eliminating homelessness, it needs to remain a primary focus for us at the Council.
I look forward to the challenge of working with our fantastic partners, local groups and volunteers to ensure that all the schemes in place continue to progress to help drive the positive trend we’re seeing that will step-by-step help to eradicate the problem of homelessness in Birmingham.
As the Football Lads Alliance prepare to protest in Birmingham this weekend, we wish to make it clear that there is no place in our city for hatred or intolerance.
If you hold extremist views and plan to stir-up trouble in our city, you are not welcome.
Birmingham is proud to be a diverse, open, tolerant and welcoming city. It is a city where people from all backgrounds, neighbourhoods and communities are united.
Whenever extremists try to divide us they quickly discover that there is no room in this city for extremist views or hatred.
Birmingham will not be divided and, while people have every right to counter-protest, we expect all protests to be carried out in a peaceful, legal and non-confrontational manner.
Birmingham City Council is working closely with West Midlands Police this week to ensure that visitors to the city centre can go about their business as usual on Saturday.
We are also aware that on Saturday, Justice for the 21 will be highlighting their ongoing quest for answers about the Birmingham pub bombings and must stress that we continue to support the families of the victims.
Cllr Ian Ward – Labour Leader of Birmingham City Council
Cllr Robert Alden – Leader of the Birmingham City Council Conservative Group
Cllr Jon Hunt – Leader of the Birmingham City Council Liberal Democrats Group
Birmingham City Council will increase investment in housing, social care and cleaner, greener streets despite having to make a further £53 million in cuts for the 2018/19 budget.
And, in response to the budget consultation, residents face a lower than anticipated council tax increase.
The proposed 2018/19 budget will be taken to Cabinet on 13 February, with changes to the original proposals including:
- Reducing the Council Tax increase to 3.99%, including 1% through the social care precept
- No increase to burial and cremation fees
- No longer proceeding with plans to charge for library book reservations
The proposed budget also includes additional investment of £70.7 million in 2018/19, including £30.4 million for adult social care and a £468 million Council Housing Capital Programme over the next four years, including £196 million for new homes and regeneration. There are also proposals to invest £0.2 million in measures to tackle fly-posting across the city.
Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward said: “We have listened and, even at a time of continuing Government cuts, we are investing in the services that matter most to the people of Birmingham.
“It’s also clear that many households are struggling with the increased cost of living, so the council tax increase will now be lower than the one we consulted on.
“Government funding for the services that people across Birmingham rely on has been cut by almost £650 million since 2010 and sadly we anticipate having to make further cuts of £123 million by 2021/22.
“We have to make cuts of £53 million for 2018/19 and inevitably that has meant having to make some difficult decisions.
“Those decisions have been informed by the people of this city and I would like to thank everyone who took time to have a say in our consultation.”
The budget will now be taken to Cabinet on 13 February, before going to Full Council on 27 February for final approval. The Cabinet report and draft budget document can be read here.