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.