Stoke-on-Trent City Council crackdown on rough sleepers

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Stoke-on-Trent City Council are planning major cutbacks on how the homeless are dealt with.

Leaders at the council are planning on reducing funding for non-statutory homelessness provisions as part of their budget cuts for 2018/19.

This aims to save £316,000 next year and £1 million by 2019/20.

The total planned savings from cuts next year are set to be £10.5 million.

This also comes after the planned introduction of a public space protection order, aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour in and around the City Centre.

This order is set to introduce a £1,000 fine for erecting tents and semi-permanent shelters.

An online petition opposing this order has already been signed by more than 2,000 people.

Protesters think these cuts and fines will only increase the number of homeless people in Stoke-on-Trent.

Stuart Richards, GMB Union Senior Organiser, said: “Cuts to benefits, council funding and a lack of affordable housing have led to a massive increase in the number of people affected by homelessness across the West Midlands.

“We’re not going to solve the issues or causes around this by criminalising or punishing those who end up sleeping on our streets.

“GMB is asking the people of Stoke to take part in the council’s consultation to help to force a change in this proposal.”

Ruth Smeeth, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent North, said: “This is a cruel and callous policy to inflict on our most vulnerable in the lead up to Christmas.

“It’s right and proper that the police take action to stop anti-social behaviour on our streets, but punishing the homeless simply for being homeless is appalling.

“In recent years, we’ve seen local funding for drug and alcohol treatment slashed and support to tackle homelessness cut to the bone.

“Locking these people up or saddling them with debt they can’t pay will only make the problem worse.”

As of Autumn last year, 4134 people were sleeping rough in England every night, with the West Midlands figure increasing by 158% since 2010.

Gareth Snell, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said: “Stoke-on-Trent’s approach to homelessness is seriously flawed.

“Fining those who have nowhere to go is unacceptable. But to compound the problem, they now plan to cut support for homelessness services in Stoke-on-Trent by £1million as a result of budget cuts.

“They are failing the very people we should be helping most.”

Shelter, a national homeless charity, said they received a call every five minutes from the West Midlands in the run up to Christmas last year, around 9,000 calls in total.

With this figure increasing by 26% over the past year, experts predict another harsh winter.

Mark Cook, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: “Every Christmas I speak to parents in despair as they face the trauma of homelessness, when they should be filling stockings and looking forward to Christmas dinner.

“Even though I’ll be working at Christmas, I think myself so lucky to be able to go home at the end of the day when there are so many families having to go without such a basic need.”

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