COLUMN by Cllr Michael Jones, Crawley Borough Council (Lab, Bewbush): Spare a thought for the homeless at Christmas

At this time of year most people are naturally looking forward to a few days off work, spending quality time with their families and generally over-indulging during the festive period.

But please spare a thought for a disturbingly large and increasing number of people that this is simply not the case. Since the Tories came to power at the last general election their economic and housing policies have massively failed this country and led us into the longest double-dip recession since the war and the biggest housing crisis in a generation. More people out of work means fewer people in work paying fewer taxes, resulting in less revenue for the government to spend on vital services such as affordable home building, the budget for which has been slashed by a huge 60%.

The Tories have also cut local council budgets by 28% nationally, putting real strain on many rough sleeping support programmes across the country - the latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that rough sleeping across the South East has risen by nearly 40%.

The Tories have an equally poor record on statutory homelessness, which is up by almost a third since they came to power in 2010, and on finding homes for families, with the number of households in temporary accommodation up by 8% in the last year alone.  80 Crawley families are currently in bed and breakfast accommodation, some as far away as Eastbourne.  That is unquestionably 80 families too many.

It is an absolute tragedy that in the weeks before Christmas so many families will be without a permanent roof over their head. But it is the result of David Cameron’s failed economic and housing policies.

It’s clear where this government’s priorities lie - in David Cameron’s Britain millionaires get a tax cut while middle and lower income families face losing their homes.

What we need is a One Nation approach to the economy and housing, including genuinely bringing forward infrastructure investment, a temporary VAT cut and a plan to fund a real increase in social homes and a jobs guarantee for young people. Then the government might be better placed to tackle the biggest housing crisis in a generation and be able to help all those sleeping rough out in the cold this Christmas.