Tory calls for tough love not warm words to help Brighton’s rough sleepers

Brighton’s rough sleepers need tough love not warm words, a Conservative councillor said this afternoon (Monday 8 October).

Robert Nemeth, who sat on the Brighton Centre Night Shelter Working Group, praised volunteers and charities who “go over and above” to help the homeless.

But he dismissed the rough sleeping strategy being implemented by Brighton and Hove City Council because “it clearly isn’t working”.

Councillor Nemeth said: “A loving approach to a person in need is not to allow them to sit on the street and drink themselves to death.

“And it damages the retail and tourist industries which provide many of the funds and job opportunities that are required to tackle rough-sleeping properly.

“If we truly care about the people sleeping rough on our streets, at most risk of violence and often lost to drink and drugs, it’s time for tough love not warm words.”

Councillor Emma Daniel, the Labour chair of the council’s Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee, said that she preferred “supporting not enforcing the homeless off the street”, adding: “Over my dead body. It’s a wicked approach.”

Councillor Daniel added: “Your party has caused a lot of the problems with its national policies.

“We need support form the government to build the housing that we need. That’s the radical approach that we need not a cruel enforcement approach.

“Brighton and Hove’s a compassionate city. We don’t want to see that.”

Green councillor Pete West criticised “the reactionary victimise the victim approach expressed by Councillor Nemeth”.

Councillor West said: “We do see, though, that this strategy is not working and we can’t simply nod this through. It is clearly failing rough sleepers at the moment.”

He said: “You need to stop wringing your hands. Your administration needs to take some responsibility as this strategy is simply not working.”

Councillor Clare Moonan said that the Conservative government policy on homelessness was very similar to the Labour-led council’s. And the Greens, she said, had cut millions of pounds of council funding.

Councillor Ken Norman criticised Labour and the Greens for making party political points and said that his Conservative colleague Councillor Nemeth had not made any party political points – but that the strategy clearly wasn’t working.

Councillor Norman added: “We’ve got to work across party. This city is a great city but let’s try to help the people out who are on the streets instead of shouting political slogans across this chamber.”

Councillor Daniel said that the strategy had previously enjoyed cross-party support and that it was a political matter – especially in an election year.

Another Conservative councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn said: “This report highlights successes and some semi-successes or semi-failures – and some failures.”

Councillors were asked to note the report but Labour was defeated by five votes to four. The two Greens and three of the Conservatives voted against noting the report. Councillor Peltzer Dunn abstained.

  1. Bonny Holland Reply
  2. Marcus Reply

    We need to get homeless out of hove. Is unsightly and not in keeping with the area. We should build shelters away from the centre in places like Whitehawk, portslade, mike oak etc. This will mean shelters for sleeping but not encouraging into the smarter areas

    • Sussexbythesea Reply

      Aah I see we have a Nimby

    • Alan Reply

      Vile comment….and I don’t think you speak for the majority of DECENT people in Hove

  3. MegA Reply

    Brighton and Hove Council has been major contributor to the homelessness in this city. The Additional licensing scheme that applies to smaller houses in multiple occupation, consisting of two or more storeys, with three or more occupiers from two or more households sharing facilities has deprived the city of a lot of its cheapest rental rooms. 3-bedroom sharers rental houses often have a smaller 3rd bedroom and this the lowest cost rental room in the house (usually within single person LHA). Now, many of these 3-bedroom houses are only occupied by 2 people with the 3rd bedroom left empty as it is illegal to rent to house to 3 sharers. In many cases the landlords don’t want an HMO licence (costs a lot) and in many cases the 3rd bedroom does not fulfil minimum space requirements so is not eligible for a HMO licence. Landlords are getting the same rent by renting to 2 people as they did to 3 because the market has risen and taking these additional 3rd bedrooms out of the market has contributed to this. It is estimated there may be hundreds of 3rd bedrooms in shared rental houses unoccupied. These bedrooms would previously have been the cheapest rooms in share households. Under-occupation of existing housing stock, driven by unintended consequences of myopic BHCC policies, is driving homelessness in this city. They have no solution.

    • Rob Reply

      Meg – very right to bring up this point, however it isn’t the council that caused this – it is national government policy

    • Amedia Reply

      This is a great point. HMO licences are a real problem preventing 3 or more sharers getting decent properties. It’s just a money grab in the name of ‘safety standards’. Another reason for the property crisis is speculative investors who own a portfolio of multiple houses in the city. My last landlord was said to own over 500 properties and when he put up the rent by £50pcm a few weeks before the contract renewed I imagine he did this with all the properties. Labour’s idea of a tax on second homes is a step in the right direction however I fear it will impact honest families looking to progress with a second home to rent. It’s the large speculative investors with 3-500 properties that should be made to put their profits back into solving the housing crisis.

  4. Rob Reply

    classic tory, introduce policies in national government that cause homelessness, then callously hate on the people they put there

    • Cllr Robert Nemeth Reply

      Eh? Did you even read the article? Given that the message was calling for a loving approach towards rough-sleepers, your comment is most bizarre.

  5. MegA Reply

    It is NOT national policy – decision to introduce additional licensing scheme that applies to smaller houses in multiple occupation was NOT compulsory. Voluntary decision by BHCC – they were warned about the potential consequences but ignored feedback. Now the chickens come home to roost. Hundreds of unoccupied bedrooms in cheaper sharer houses because of the BHCC ill-conceived policy. It will get worse as policy is rolled out further. Building new homes will not help rough sleepers, allowing unused bedrooms in cheaper shared houses to be occupied will help.

  6. rolivan Reply

    The YHA in Brighton manage to keep the costs down by having dormitories and for about £15.00 a night you can have a bed and a shower.Why are all of the Homeless Agencies not doing something about it by doing something similar or are they afraid of losing their job?

  7. Billy Reply

    Let’s not make the homeless into a political football. These are our fellow humans.
    The reasons for homelessness are many and varied but there’s no doubt that austerity policies of recent years have added to the problems of the poor the most. Caps on housing benefit are just one example.
    Escalating property values and living costs are also to blame.
    To afford a modest flat or bedsit in Brighton and Hove you need 800 a month plus bills and that means you need at least 1,000 a month+ before you even buy food. If you can get 40 hours a week at minimum wage then you may only get about 1200 in your account each month. In practice, it’s hard to get 40hrs a week in minimum wage jobs.
    So the figures don’t stack up for those on low incomes, and many of us are just one pay cheque away from living on the streets. Those in work can often feel they are slaves working to pay most of their earned money to landlords and in council tax etc.
    That said, I don’t think we should allow people to just pitch tents anywhere in the city, and especially not in the tourist areas. This problem is getting out of hand and so current policies, national and local, clearly aren’t working.

  8. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    The term “homeless” makes a bloc of what in fact are individual cases, all as different as people themselves. When collecting for Brighton Housing Trust, I am always struck by the kinds words about such people as they put loot in the tin (an interesting sign of the times, though, is that fewer people carry cash).

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