The council's been criticised for 'passively observing this problem year on year'
More than 2,800 children are currently living in temporary accommodation in Wandsworth.The shocking statistic was revealed at a full council meeting on October 16, after Labour leader, Councillor Simon Hogg, asked the leader of the council about the homelessness crisis.Cllr Hogg said: “The situation is obviously appalling, 2,843 children woke up homeless this morning in Wandsworth Council temporary accommodation. Since I joined the council, the number of homeless families has gone up by five fold, 500 per cent, and this deadly problem is only getting worse.”
He criticised the council for “passively observing this problem year on year on year,” and called on it to “put in place a rigorous plan to arrest this and reverse it.”Leader Ravi Govindia said he shared Cllr Hogg’s sentiments about the problem, but was careful to emphasise the standard of temporary accommodation in the borough.
He said: “The image might be of something pretty ramshackled, but the majority of the temporary accommodation this council uses is in borough, or near borough, it is in fact in many cases just like any other house... so they are not in any way second rate.”He added that the council’s focus was to build more homes and upskill rough sleepers to help them sustain their new tenancies.
He also criticised Cllr Hogg’s accusation that the council was sitting “passively by” and suggested that part of the problem was that the two estate regeneration programmes at Winstanley and Alton were not going as well as they should, adding, “maybe he bears responsibility for at least one of them.”
At this point the two leaders came to blows, when Cllr Hogg suggested it was better to be remembered "as the councillor that tried to support homeless people than as the councillor that tried to support property developers.”
Last year The Guardian reported that a lobbyist for some of the UK’s biggest property developers allegedly used a direct communication channel to Cllr Govindia to help push through planning applications for luxury apartment developments.
Cllr Hogg was reprimanded by the Mayor for his "unacceptable" comments, while Cllr Govindia suggested members of the Labour group look at their own side first.The council later passed a controversial amended motion on food poverty in the borough.
Conservative councillors Mowatt and Morgan removed Labour’s original wording to “investigate and measure the extent of the issue and draw up a food poverty action plan."They replaced it with a commitment to continue to “work to support and promote Healthy Start Vouchers.”
Cllr Mowatt said the Conservatives will not use "a sticking plaster" and will address the underlying issues with the likes of the Wandsworth Grant Fund to support targeted local projects.
Although many Labour councillors welcomed the action being taken on Healthy Start Vouchers, which provide families on certain benefits with free milk, fruit and vegetables, they criticised the decision not to measure the extent of food poverty in the borough.
Cllr Kemi Akinola, who brought forward the original motion said: "Without the data, how can we possibly tackle the problem?"
Wandsworth Food Bank also expressed its “disappointment.”
A spokesperson said it was “a real missed opportunity to take a step closer to ending the need for food banks in Wandsworth.“We know councillors across the spectrum care about local people, but we need concrete proactive action to solve this problem.”
Photo credit: Pixels