All parties must take immediate steps to tackle homelessness, says Andy Burnham

The main parties must all commit to taking immediate steps to tackle the homelessness crisis if they get into power, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, Mr Burnham has called for both the freeze on the Local Housing Allowance and no-fault evictions to be ended, and for Greater Manchester’s “A Bed Every Night” scheme to be rolled out across the UK.

He added that steps must be taken urgently to “save lives this winter”.

Last year, an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales, a 22% increase on the figure for 2017.

Mr Burnham has outlined a number of steps that he believes should be taken to alleviate the homelessness crisis.

These include abolishing the no recourse to public funds policy and providing emergency funding to operate the “A Bed Every Night” scheme across all of England over winter and into 2020.

Mr Burnham claims that under the scheme, Manchester has bucked the trend of rising homelessness figures, with the number of people sleeping rough in the city declining for two successive winters.

Since its launch 12 months ago, 2,650 people have been helped into emergency accommodation, and nearly 950 individuals have found a longer-term housing solution.

Mr Burnham says rolling the scheme out nationwide would “save lives, save money and ease pressure on public services”.

The charity Crisis estimates that each rough sleeper costs the taxpayer £20,000 a year through hospital, police custody and judicial system costs.

In comparison, the “A Bed Every Night” scheme costs £12,000 per individual each year, Mr Burnham notes.

The challenge of securing temporary accommodation for homeless people is also costing a substantial amount, he adds, referencing evidence from the charity Shelter reporting that councils spent over £1 billion on temporary accommodation last year, an increase of 80% in five years.

The mayor has called on the issue of homelessness to be given more attention in the General Election campaign.

Mr Burnham said: “More than 700 homeless people died last year but this human tragedy has not had the attention it deserves in the General Election campaign.

“In this day and age British people should not be dying on our streets for want of a roof over their heads. So today, I have written to party leaders about immediate steps a new Prime Minister and government should take to save lives this winter.

“Thousands are volunteering their time to help homeless people and before casting their votes people need to know that the party leaders will take action to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

“Here in Greater Manchester we have made great progress in reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough on our streets but much more needs to be done at national level.

“Homelessness shames our society and our duty to care for all citizens. We need a government that will listen to what is needed and deliver on commitments to end rough sleeping.”