Cllr Paul Gadsby is the Cabinet Member for Housing and a councillor in Vassall ward.
You don’t have to look very hard to find the impact of a decade of negligence by the Tories when it comes to the housing crisis. There is a long list of statistics and evidence that is so depressing most people cant bear to get to the end of it. But the most visible, painful example is the epidemic in rough sleeping that is evident in every corner of this country. And its very clear from the Tory manifesto that they haven’t got the slightest idea, or frankly desire, to end it.
The human cost of rough sleeping is appalling. If you are on the streets you are more likely to have serious health issues and your life expectancy is hugely reduced. You are more susceptible to developing or sustaining a drug or alcohol addiction, and women are at serious risk of sexual exploitation or violence. When I have been out with Lambeth rough sleeping team, who do tireless work helping people every night or visited our many facilities for the homeless, you see these issues writ large on the faces of the people in these dire straits. No one wants to be on the streets. As one ex-rough sleeper told me “I can’t tell you how disgusting you feel when you are sleeping rough. It cuts into every part of your soul”.
Unfortunately this human cost seems to be acceptable in today’s Tory Britain. Nine thousand people now have a life on the streets in London. That’s almost the same as the number of people living in the ward I represent on Lambeth council. Despite Tory cuts, we are investing £4 million every year in rough sleeping services: that pays for 500 beds and apartments, a range of support services and the outreach team I mentioned earlier. But, despite the incredibly generosity and work ethic of professionals and volunteers, we are struggling against a rising tide. Every person I speak to involved in this area paints a picture of seeing more and more people in need every week.
At this election people have a real stark choice about whether they wish to fix this problem. Labour has launched a manifesto that accords with Lambeth Labour’s core approach: more investment in rough sleeping services and, most importantly, a house building programme that will have real funding behind it. This winter we will be launching a campaign aimed at raising awareness of this huge crisis. But for the country, the Tory alternative is their indifference stretching off into another decade – surely this alone, is enough reason to kick Boris Johnson’s Tories out of office?
Cllr Paul Gadsby