Over recent days Bournemouth has been making national news headlines for the wrong reasons.
First there was the death of 65 year old Kevin Filsell, a well known homeless man who died whilst sleeping under a flyover in the town's Braidley Road car park. We are awaiting the outcome of the Coroner's Inquest into his death as there have been suggestions in the press that the actions of council officials or contracters may have contributed to his death.
This was swiftly followed by widespread coverage of the council's installation of spikes and metal bars in places homeless people might attempt to settle down.
Over the last two years, Bournemouth Liberal Democrats have repeatedly raised the issues of homelessness, rough-sleeping and lack of social mobility in the town and it angers us that our Conservative council have not heeded any of our warnings or met any of our demands. Instead of seeking to help the poorest in our community they see fit to enforce such 'homelessness strategies' as "Frequent wake-ups, disruption and cleansing from the Rough Sleeper Team, Police and street cleaning team." (page 8 of the council's Homelessness Strategy Update of April 2016)
Liberal Democrats have, over recent weeks and months made the following calls and we will continue to campaign on these issues;-
- Councils must be prepared to use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) so that empty homes can be brought back into use. This power has been used just 19 in England since the power came into force over a decade ago. Figures obtained by Bournemouth Lib Dems showed that more than 830 dwellings have stood empty in the town for at least six months, with over 30 having been empty for more then ten years!
- We oppose the continued disposal of public land to allow the develpment of hundreds of flats for private sale by the Bournemouth Development Company, while roughly 4000 local people are stuck on the housing waiting list. We call for an urgent change in the priorities of this council and a concerted effrot to build more affordable homes and houses for social rent.
- Planning laws must be enforced to ensure that developers meet their obligations to provide social and affordable housing within their schemes. Section 106 payments, where required MUST be made in full and used for the benefit of the community.
- We believe that the national introduction of a Land Value Tax would discourage property developers and land owers from "land banking", forcing suitable land to be brought into residential use for the benefit of all.
- We have been pressurising Bournemouth Borough Council on the lack of provision of a night shelter in the town. When we witnessed the recent eviction of a number of rough-sleepers from a site in the town centre we learned from the St Mungo's charity that there has been no permanent night shelter provision in either Bournemouth or Poole for at least four years. While we acknowledge the hugely valuable seasonal 'Sleepsafe' scheme offered by Faithworks, it simply isn't enough to meet the need. Permanent provision must be a priority for the area.
- With a 15% rise in the numbers of rough-sleepers in 2017, Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable has stated that "until the Government commits to the funding needed to prevent homelessness and builds more genuinely affordable homes, and invests properly in mental health care, the number of rough sleepers will continue to rise at a shocking pace". In Bournemouth the figure has risen by over 300% since 2012.
- Bournemouth Borough Council and government nationally must address the rise of child poverty in the town. In Bournemouth West 4908 children have been registered as living in poverty while in Bourneouth east that figure is over 5300. This is utterly unacceptable in 21st century Britain.
These are just a few of the areas in which we believe our council and our government have been guilty of neglecting the needs of local people. We will continue to campaign for better.
In 2019 there will be a full set of elections to the replacement for Bournemouth Borough Council. We urge voters to use these elections to create a new authority which works for the benefit of ALL in Bournemouth, not just the well-off.