The scandal of homelessness and insecurity in Cornwall this Christmas.
by the Chair of Bude & Stratton Labour Party
We live in a beautiful place. Bude and North Cornwall people are the friendliest I have ever known. There is a real sense of local community, especially in the dark winter months. I am lucky. I have a home which is the heart of my family life, a warm and secure place for my children to be themselves. But recently I was given a stark reminder that too many people face housing insecurity and huge challenges this Christmas.
Only a few weeks ago Cornwall Council was in the national news for providing a tent to a vulnerable homeless seventeen-year-old because they simply did not have the resources to help him.
Yet, ‘Bude Young People’s Foyer’, a block of six studio flats to house and support young homeless people, stands empty, is threatened with demolition and to be replaced with luxury apartments. Can anything demonstrate more the moral bankruptcy of a housing system that rewards the few at the expense of the many?
The UK is in middle of a housing crisis. Since 2010, the year ‘Bude Young People’s Foyer’ was built, the number of people sleeping rough in shop doorways and on park benches has more than doubled. More families are living in temporary accommodation: 120,000 children spent last Christmas without a home to call their own. Rents are rising faster than incomes, and new affordable housebuilding is at a 24-year low. But there are always opportunities for the few.
In 2013, Cornwall Council closed ‘Bude Young People’s Foyer’ as part of the cuts regime imposed upon them by this Conservative government. The keys were passed on to the Home Group, but they were unable to manage the apartments, and the doors remained locked. There has been a complete failure to make use of local knowledge and find a Bude-based solution. Instead, there is now an opportunity for a private developer to wipe out this inconvenient reminder of need and to replace it with luxury flats in a town where house prices are amongst the highest in Cornwall.
The Labour Party is committed to tackling the national housing crisis. We will establish a new Department of Housing to focus on homes for the many, and give councils new powers to build the homes local communities need. But this Conservative Government may limp on till 2022, and we need brave local solutions that will tackle homelessness and insecurity now.
Bude and Stratton Labour Party has campaigned for ‘Bude Young People’s Foyer’ to be refurbished and reopened. Through Labour Cornwall Councillor Jayne Kirkham, we have been encouraging your local Cornwall Councillors to also campaign for a proper Bude solution. There is a real opportunity here for Cornwall Councillors and the Town Council to work with a variety of cross-agency organisations to provide help for local people in need.
Far too many people in Bude are in need this Christmas. The gaps in the welfare safety net are getting ever wider under this government. The perfect storm of rising prices, austerity-hit services, and the botched Universal Credit roll-out, means that there are families suffering this winter.
How many of us have donated to Bude Food Bank in the run-up to the festive season? Bude people are generous, we look out for each other, but a Food Bank is no solution to the damage done by austerity. We in the Labour Party believe that people making hard choices should not have to ask for charity, that central and local government have a legal, and moral, duty to provide services that offer security and solutions for all.
A dynamic County and Town Council approach to issues such as ‘Bude Young People’s Foyer’ is desperately needed.
Christmas Time, and a secure warm home in Bude, really should be possible for all of us, and not just for a few.