Barking and Dagenham Council leader: ‘No one needs to be sleeping rough over Christmas’
PUBLISHED: 14:00 20 December 2018
Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Darren Rodwell, has spoken out about homelessness during the holidays.
Speaking to Mark Dover on Time107 yesterday, the councillor said no one needs to be sleeping rough in the borough this Christmas – although that wasn’t a guarantee they wouldn’t be.
“Homelessness comes across in many different ways, it’s not just one part of the community,” he said.
“There’s more people working that don’t have permanent accommodation than ever before in this country, and one in four children are now in poverty as well. That’s not good.
“It’s quite clear people don’t have enough money and that’s why foodbanks are being used. I have to thank the churches and voluntary sector for their support, making sure no one needs to be sleeping rough in Barking and Dagenham this year.”
The councillor said rent increases, more buy to let landlords, and losing council homes through right to buy had put unbelievable pressure on the council’s housing capacity. Barking and Dagenham has lost 48,500 council homes through right to buy.
“It’s ridiculous that a council like ourselves will charge someone £500 a month for rent, but the same house literally next door that used to be one of ours is going for £1,400 a month,” he said.
“Rent increases have really casued a problem, the private sector has been built for people who can buy, not rent, and local government hasn’t been able to build.”
Although the council won’t put on a meal for the homeless on Christmas Day, Mr Rodwell said they’d be supporting local churches and organisations with their offerings.
“On Christmas Day the council as an entity don’t put on a meal, but we support different groups that are doing that,” he said.
“Studio 3 Arts are putting on something for 50 people. We don’t do it directly but we support the groups supporting the vulnerable.
“It’s about coming together and supporting the people that deserve our support.”
The councillor also took a moment to reflect on his highlights of the year.
He mentioned finding a partner for the film studios, winning council of the year, and securing a youth zone to open in 2019 as particular highlights, while he named knife crime as a notable low point.
“Winning council of the year – that’s the rest of the country telling us we’re doing a good job,” he said.
“People don’t realise how hard our staff work – we’ve lost over 1,000 members since I became a councillor in 2010. I have to thank every one of our 2,000 staff for braving the changes we’ve had over the last year. People are quick to criticise when a lot of people do a lot of good work for the residents.”