Updated: Friday, 15th November 2019 @ 6:22pm

Greater Manchester Mayor urges government to declare 'homelessness emergency' to tackle growing problem on city's streets

Greater Manchester Mayor urges government to declare 'homelessness emergency' to tackle growing problem on city's streets

| By James Kelly

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called on the government to declare a ‘homelessness emergency’.

Mr Burnham has already spent the last few months working on his own measures to tackle the problem, including the extension of his flagship ‘Bed Every Night’ scheme until at least next June.

But now, he has called on the government to declare a ‘homelessness emergency’ in order to make tackling the issue a national priority.

This comes in the wake of parliament’s declaration of a ‘climate emergency’  

Mr Burnham accused the government of not doing enough, citing Brexit as a significant reason.

He said: “Frankly, I am fed up of Brexit being used as a convenient excuse for inaction on a range of issues. Issues that can literally be life-and-death for our fellow citizens.

“It is a source of national shame that at least 449 people died last year on British streets for want of a home.”

When asked by Mancunian Matters what advice he’d give his party leadership in their Brexit talks with the government, Mr Burnham did not comment specifically.

However, he did encourage his former parliamentary colleagues to “stop plotting in the tea rooms, get your finger out and start doing something”.

Along with his call for national action to tackle homelessness, the mayor announced his own policy proposals, including the extension of the ‘Bed Every Night’ scheme for at least another year.

The flagship initiative was originally launched last November and aimed to provide a bed to every rough sleeper in Greater Manchester over the winter months.

It is credited with helping 1,400 rough sleepers, with 480 of those helped into more suitable housing.

Other plans announced include the creation of a Greater Manchester Ethical Lettings Agency and a Good Landlord Charter. The agency aims to bring more sustainable tenancies and practices into the private-rented sector.

The Liberal Democrats have rubbished Mr Burnham’s proposals, accusing him of gearing up for next year’s mayoral election.

Richard Kilpatrick, the Lib Dems Deputy leader in Manchester City Council, said: “All we've heard from Burnham is words. In his first campaign, he promised affordable housing – he’s delivered nothing.”

Kilpatrick also accused Mr Burnham of remaining silent on what he calls the proposed “Homeless Tax”.

The plan put forward by Labour councillors could land rough sleepers in Manchester with £100 fines, potentially rising to £1,000 if left unpaid. 

Mr Burnham referenced the issue, saying in his speech: “We need to be clear that Greater Manchester is not a place where people are criminalised simply because they have nowhere to go or punished for sleeping rough.”