I read with alarm, but not surprise, that once again our Marlborough Town and Wiltshire Councillors are totally out of touch with issues that affect our local community.
A few months ago they had no knowledge of the proposed closure of our Sure Start programme until it was too late to organise any meaningful opposition to it. Today I read that the homeless hostel in St Margaret’s Mead is to be sold by auction this week (September 16) and at the Town Council meeting last week (September 5) our Councillors were completely unaware of this.
Wiltshire Council claim to have conducted a review of provision for homeless families and say that due to a reduction in demand and recent changes in allocation criteria they are decommissioning this service. No consultation with anyone and no opposition or questions raised by our Councillors.
Although homelessness is rising considerably in Britain according to government statistics the number of registered homeless in Wiltshire has fallen in the last quarter. In the first quarter of this year there was a 15 per cent reduction in the number of homeless applications in Wiltshire, but an increase in the number of homeless applications (20 per cent) REJECTED by the Council. Allocation criteria have certainly changed.
The constant redefinition of what constitutes homelessness is similar to the government’s repeated attempts to redefine poverty. This makes the picture look rosy and the problems are hidden.
Homelessness is an issue in Wiltshire, but most homelessness is hidden from the statistics as Councils only have a statutory duty to house (and register) those who meet very strict criteria, mainly families with children. Many other homeless people stay in hostels which cater for single people with mental health issues, alcohol or drug related problems and young people without family support.
It is hostels, like the one that is closing in Marlborough, that focus more on rehabilitation and resettlement, which are closing all over the country.
Maybe homelessness is of little concern to our Town and County Councillors but some debate on this really important issue might be expected from our elected representatives.
I hope that in the Council elections next May we might elect Councillors who care more about these issues.
(Chair Devizes Constituency Labour Party)