Lib Dem group leader calls for local leadership on rough sleeping

The result of the national count of rough sleeping published today shows it increased in Cambridge for the second year running.

Photo: Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Tim Bick and County Cllr Nichola Harrison.

The count in Cambridge, conducted on 22nd November, found 33 people sleeping rough, compared with 27 the year before. This 20% increase in Cambridge is contrary to a reduction in the national figures, which reduced by 9% and by 12% amongst councils who are receiving special help from the government, like Cambridge. 

A BBC survey published yesterday suggests that the actual figures are likely to be five times higher than the national count shows, which is a snapshot on a single night.

Cllr Tim Bick, Lib Dem Group Leader on Cambridge City Council, represents the city centre ward and together with County Councillor Nichola Harrison prepared a recent report calling for an overhaul of local rough sleeping policy. He reacted to these figures:

"These figures again confirm the sad reality that we can all see on the streets of Cambridge. Current policies do not seem to be having much impact on the problem. Indeed it is alarming that the figures seem to be going in the opposite direction from the rest of the country, including London which has the most serious problem. I called for a re-examination 4 years ago, which was denied by the Labour leadership, which was more keen to write letters to the government than look at themselves. 

“The emergence of a significant 'Housing First’ initiative, which we called for in our own report 2 years ago, has been painfully slow to happen. We still lack a city charter on Rough Sleeping which is needed to involve the public and co-ordinate all the many separate organisations who each have their own initiatives. Clearly a study of what is successful elsewhere would be worthwhile. 

"It will be said that there is a lot of effort is put in here and a large amount of money is spent, and it’s true that a lot of people are doing some really great work. But taken together, are we getting the best from this as a city? This is where political leadership is really needed.”

“I have been an observer on the national count in Cambridge for the last three years. As usual, in the very early hours of the morning, it is a particularly disturbing experience to find people trying to sleep in nooks and crannies all over the city in appalling conditions. The best job possible is done to make the count accurate, but I can well understand that it may understate the problem.”

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