Number of rough sleepers in Bedford rises from two to 18, meeting told

Bedford Borough Lib Dems said they were "disappointed" that "political choices" led to the increase
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The number of people sleeping rough has increased from two to 18, a meeting heard.

And Bedford Borough Lib Dems said they were “disappointed” that “political choices” had led to the rise.

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During yesterday’s Executive Meeting (March 6), councillor Dean Crofts (Lib Dem, Kingsbrook) said: “The previous administration left rough sleepers at two and it’s increased to 18 within six months of [the Conservatives] coming into office.

A homeless man begs for small change on the streets (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)A homeless man begs for small change on the streets (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A homeless man begs for small change on the streets (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

“We made political choices in the previous administration to get it down to two and keep it at two.”

The portfolio holder for community safety, regulatory services and housing, councillor Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant (Conservative, Great Barford) said homelessness is a “huge issue” across the country as well as in the borough.

“When the last count was taken in November the new winter night shelter wasn’t open, I believe,” she said. “So I think the position is slightly different now.

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“Whilst we’re trying to create a good [rough sleeping] provision there have been challenges in creating that,” she said.

Councillor Martin-Moran-Bryant added that there have been delays in purchasing accommodation, and a property which was expected to come online in December 2022 has still not gone through.

“We have got a hub which is run by the council and also the night shelter which is being run by the King’s Arms project,” she said.

“We do know that there are some people who are choosing not to access those services, and that is something that we are looking into.

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“And we essentially, for this year, have had to create a plan as quickly as we can, and I recognize that the service isn’t as 100 per cent as we wanted it to be,” she said.

Councillor Crofts said: “We are also really disappointed that you’ve delayed the housing consultation report and it’s not at this evening’s executive in relation to how you’re going to deal with homelessness.

“The fact that it’s not coming to Executive this evening and you’ve scheduled it for the June meeting does create uncertainty for residents about how homelessness is going to be dealt within the borough.

“It also creates uncertainty for our housing staff of the council about what exactly is your policy on homelessness.

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“The lack of action is already having an effect on how many people in the borough are having to sleep on pavements,” he said.

Councillor Martin-Moran-Bryant said: “If you’re talking about the report that we discussed at the Housing Committee – which I think you requested to come back to [the] Committee, which I think is appropriate to do so because there were questions raised and it’s right that we do that – so in terms of things not coming here tonight is because actually we need to look at that document, we need to look at it from a Bedford point of view.

“I think that’s what the [Housing] committee asked for, so it would be really wrong for me to bring it tonight and not take it back to that committee [first],” she said.

Councillor Martin-Moran-Bryant added that she has only given a broad explanation so she would send a more detailed written answer to councillor Crofts.

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