Tory council to make homelessness illegal

The Tories have a new policy on homelessness: make it illegal. That is the extraordinary intention of a Conservative flagship council. Worse, they want to ban Salvation Army soup kitchens.

Westminster city council, the richest and most powerful council in the UK, is proposing a new bye-law to ban rough sleeping and “soup runs” in the Victoria area of London. The proposed new bye-law will make it an offence punishable by a fine to “sleep or lie down”, “deposit materials used as bedding” and to “give out, or permit another to give out, food for free”.

If these proposals are passed, they will also prohibit companies with a proud record of corporate social responsibility from doing good things. Companies like Pret a Manger, who have, very quietly, for many years, given away their unsold food to London’s homeless. If the Tories get their way, companies like Pret will be forced to throw the food in the bin.

What must housing minister, Grant Shapps, think of this? Back in Christmas 2007, Shapps, ostentatiously spent a night in a bag outside Victoria station.

Back then he told Andrew Porter of the Daily Telegraph:

“Our policy is we absolutely need more houses. The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school’. The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there”.

That was then and this is now. If the Tories on Westminster council get their way, Shapps would have been fined for sleeping in the street. Not, we suspect, that he would do it now.

Shapps first came to our attention when he was the Tory campaign manager in the Ealing Southall by-election. Back then, he hit upon the wizard idea of describing his candidate – on the ballot paper – as a “David Cameron Conservative”. His candidate came third. Shapps has not run a by-election since.

Interestingly, though, Tom Watson has resurrected the idea – in Barnsley. Perhaps we should forever use the phrase “David Cameron’s Conservatives” on all our leaflets.

We may be doing Shapps a disservice. It may be that he is appalled by Westminster’s proposal. He may choose not to trot out the line that it is all Labour’s fault. If he does, though, he should look at Westminster in a little more detail before shooting from the hip.

Last year, the Tories in Westminster spent £3,973,952 on 12 temporary staff, all of whom cost the council over £500 a day. The highest paid temporary staff member, a temporary head of regeneration and partnerships, costs the council £745 a day and has cost £453,446 for the 608 days the person has worked for the council. A senior project manager, charges £600 a day, costing the council £852,600 for

1,421 days work, while a senior business analyst, charging £521 a day, has cost the council £827,400 for 1,588 days work. Overall, the council spends £10.5 million a year on temporary staff.

You can buy a lot of soup for £3,973,952.

Remember, this is the council of Lady Porter. The one that has supposed to have reformed itself since those scandalous days. Its financial management is now so good that it invested nearly £17 million in since-failed Icelandic Banks, of which over £11 million has yet to be recovered.

Shapps might also tell us that that there should be a “big society” solution to the problem of homelessness in Westminster.

Yet the council is cutting over £1 million from voluntary sector grants over the next two years, a cut of 25%. Nearly £60,000 (39%) is being cut from the financial support given to information and advice agencies – the sort of people that give advice to the homeless.

Direct support to the homeless is to be cut by £967,000 over the next two years.

No wonder they want to make it illegal to sleep in a cardboard box.

Click here to see the draft byelaw.

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41 Responses to “Tory council to make homelessness illegal”

  1. One of the LSE’s main findings in the 2009 report ‘Soup runs in Central London’, whose stated aim was ‘to provide an independent and objective perspective on soup runs in the London Borough of Westminster’:

    Soup run providers are committed to street soup runs until there is nobody using them.

    So the contradiction seems to be that you can be part of the Big Society as long as it fits the central government definition of ‘the right help, in the right place at the right time’.

  2. RMB says:

    Another day closer to the return of the workhouses.

  3. I agree this is a shameful way for Westminster to try to offload its responsibilities onto other councils (presumably if sleeping rough becomes illegal, those who do it will simply have to move over to Camden, Brent or Chelsea).

    But you may need to check that arithmetic: £3.9m on 12 people means an average of £331,000 each. At 240 days a year they would each earn an average of £1,379 a day. Since the highest paid makes only £745/day, this can’t be right.

    Maybe the £3.9m figure is the total spent on those 12 individuals over their entire employment history – which must be at least 5 or 6 years in the case of the project manager. The scandal in my view is not that they spend money on expensive staff – this could well be justified – but that they have kept a supposedly temporary employee on £600/day for six years.

  4. Alec Middleton says:

    Dealing with a problem by declaring it illegal to have that problem has been tried by another party.
    Since 2008, you can be declared legally fit and well while remaining medically sick. You can be declared legally able after an Atos assessment yet remain, in reality, disabled. The disabled have suffered a cruel, brutal, enforced ideology of ‘work makes you better’ for years now. The Labour Party, to its shame, introduced it.

  5. Paul Newman's Eyes says:

    Do you have a source on this? The only other things I can find all refer to seemingly the same story from 2007. Are you sure you haven’t accidentally resurrected that?

  6. Mark Best says:

    Could you possibly reveal the source of this information. Much as I’d like to get angry about this, one lone blogpost is not all that convincing as to the truth of the allegations.

  7. Art Li says:

    “Westminster city council ….. is proposing a new bye-law to ban rough sleeping and “soup runs” in the Victoria area of London”. Does that mean an area around Victoria Station, as opposed to the whole of Westminster City? The title of this article is a little misleading?

  8. Amanda Ramsay says:

    Thank you for writing this

  9. Simon says:

    Do you have a source for this, because it’s so disgusting I’m having difficulty believing it.

  10. Martin Murphy says:

    This is a reality for the doubters. I received an email Friday from Housing Justice with a copy of the proposal. Responses to it need to be in by Friday 25th March. The documents I have explain it fully and also detail the boudaries for it.

    If you would like a copy of the documents message me at @network2012 on twitter with your email and I’ll forward to you.


  11. Matt says:

    Admittedly, if true, this is utterly vile. But it’s not going to be particularly effective though, is it? What will their punishment be? Being taken to a cell and forced to spend the night indoors?

    And how much police time and resources will be wasted rounding up the homeless to lock them away? Would there be any room left for actual criminals?

    This is insanity times madness squared.

  12. Celia says:

    So does this mean they will also make it illegal to evict tenants who fall on hard times?

  13. Val says:

    The consultation letter:
    The map of the area of the proposed ban:
    The draft byelaw:

    The Pavement (the magazine for the UK’s homeless people) will be covering this in depth. Housing Justice is holding a meeting to discuss the proposal on Thursday 3 March, at 6.30 pm, at its offices: 22-25 Finsbury Sq, EC2A 1DX.

    You have until until 25 March to lodge your views.

  14. Denny says:

    A very quick Google finds me this article with most of the same facts, including a reference to the similar 2007 story:

    There’s a whole strategy document here, but it doesn’t mention implementation details so it’s not very definitive:

  15. kathz says:

    In case of doubt about Westminster Council’s proposed new by-law, see Ekklesia

  16. Denny says:

    A very quick Google finds me this article with most of the same facts, including a reference to the similar 2007 story:

    There’s a whole strategy document here, but it doesn’t mention implementation details so it’s not very definitive:

  17. kathz says:

    [resubmitting comment without accidental lack of space which hampers clicking on the link]

    In case of doubt about Westminster Council’s proposed new by-law, see Ekklesia

    In case you haven’t heard of it, Ekklesia is a religious (Christian, I think) think-tank with contacts who campaign to help homeless people (and who are therefore likely to be called on during the 4-week consultation period)

  18. This measure is being proposed afresh by Westminster City Council. It was first proposed in 2007. The proposal is open to public consultation until 25th March.

    Housing Justice which organises a forum for soup run providers, was one of the lead organisers of opposition to the ban, and will be helping coordinate opposition again.

    There is a press release about this on the HJ website and a meeting on Thursday 3rd March at the HJ office to help organise opposition

  19. Coombs says:

    [citation needed]

  20. Robert says:

    The council will have people believe that there are no homeless people sleeping rough in Pembrokeshire, but it’s not just me, there are others.”

    Nigel went on to the housing register and made a homelessness application last May, but was not classed as a priority case.

    A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “He was assessed by a housing officer in June and it was deemed that under the Homelessness Act 2002 he did not have a priority need.

    sadly labour has sod all to talk about with the social house building it did, people in my area on the priority waiting list may have to wait five or six years.

  21. widogmom says:

    Hey, here’s an idea…instead of providing health care, let’s make being sick illegal. That makes about as much sense.

  22. Riffler says:

    “give out, or permit another to give out, food for free”

    Will they be bussing any kids on free school meals to the next council? Or do Westminster do that already?

  23. Emma Jamieson says:

    Yes, Matt ; they will quite probably do just that. In fact, this is precisely what the Police did to my Dad in the late 1970’s when he had nowhere to live after returning from active service. He was arrested for having nowhere to stay; was thrown into a Police cell and was dead by the morning. These politicians are nothing short of monsters; and never, ever doubt their capacity for sheer, unmitigated cruelty coupled with utter disregard for the sanctity of human life.

  24. Red Riding says:

    I think Dickens had it covered in a Christmas Carol, but then again it could be a Westminster Tory Group Policy meeting…….

    ” “At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge”, said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
    “Are there no prisons?”, asked Scrooge.
    “Plenty of prisons”, said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
    “And the Union workhouses?”, demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
    “They are. Still”, returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
    “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?”, said Scrooge.
    “Both very busy, sir.”
    “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course”, said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
    “Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude”, returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
    “Nothing!”, Scrooge replied.
    “You wish to be anonymous?”
    “I wish to be left alone”, said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
    “If they would rather die”, said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”
    “But you might know it”, observed the gentleman.
    “It’s not my business”, Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”
    Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.”

  25. Nickoli says:

    Government guidelines for issuing Fixed Penalty Notices (on the spot “fines”) advise against issuing to those with “chaotic lifestyles”, e.g. the homeless, as they go unpaid but are just about impossible to follow up with court action – they don’t have an address at which to serve the court papers.

  26. Tacitus says:

    So is this Caring Conservativism?

  27. M says:

    “Tory council to make homelessness illegal”
    because Labour didn’t have time to do it. This is a weird place to say such things.
    Some serious bandwagon jumping going on here.

    This proposal is wrong, but as it would appeaar that Labour thought it up in the first place, how can it be complained about and blamed on the tories on this website?

  28. Alan199 says:

    More of David Cameron’s “Big Society”, eh? Starting to do what they have always done, victimise the “little” people, the ones who are usually first to be disenfranchised when the Tories grab power. And if Labour had any input then Labour should also be run out of town.

  29. Barry Curtis says:

    “This proposal is wrong, but as it would appeaar that Labour thought it up in the first place, how can it be complained about and blamed on the tories on this website?”

    Hey, I may have THOUGHT about murdering someone or robbing a bank. Does that make me as culpable as somebody that actually goes through with it?

  30. paul barker says:

    I see you are still running the misleading headline, deliberately encouraging the hysterical responces seen in many of the comments.
    I have no idea if Westminster council are responding to a genuine problem but I do know that their proposal is extremely limited. The area of the the proposed ban basically covers The Catholic Cathedral, The Palace & the streets between, it excludes Victoria Station itself.
    On a quick estimate the total area is about a quarter of one percent of Westminster Borough, less than a thousandth of Inner London as a whole.

  31. @Paul Barker.

    The headline is correct and is if anything, an understatement. It will be illegal to lie down regardless of whether your homeless or not. Politics is always a slippery slope. In democratic society it is very hard to pass things that people disagree with but once the bill is passed rearranging the boundaries is no longer a political issue, that can be left to beaurocrats who can just be told what to do.

    Fixed penalty notices already give far too much power to the police. A good female friend of mine was laughed at by police for picking up chips her boyfriend had dropped on the floor. She confronted the police about it and was handcuffed and told she would be put in a cell for the night if she did not accept an on the spot fine of 100 pounds for affray.

    There are a serious ammount of bad eggs in our police force and giving them more power to bully people isn’t in anyones interest.

    I’ve attempted to make light with this pretty tragic matter here

  32. Matthew Percy says:

    Making homelessness illegal could be a good thing but only if the council provides somewhere safe for them to sleep istead.

  33. Seif Fathi says:

    What is this country going to, homelessness Illegal? I mean I’ve never heard anything so stupid, o wait yes i have drug prohibition but we all see how that’s failed miserably clearly politicians are stupider than i thought!

  34. John Doe says:


    Easy to get round if it does become law, the food can be charged for thus making it legal, the charge can be a nominal fee of 1p

    The sleeping is a bit more difficult but if it is enforced then the ‘law breaker’ will have to be kept in police cells overnight as the person will have no funds to pay the fine and a magistrate will have no option but to cancel the fine and release the defendant

    It isn’t going to work

  35. ross mc donald says:

    for cluck sake westminister,why not cut to the chace.the amount of people who freeze to death in our gr8 land is outrageous.even the let them eat cake rule is gone,fall over in london and you are finished regardless of so angry to see all these politician blatently lie that support is in place if you fall over,they maintain you skip through the medow into a hostel,and suggest there are alternatives to soup runs,shame on camden for clamping the haris.fine a man who cant find a bed lock him up if he cant pay,thats gr8 for a cv.200 uk citizens froze to death on our streets in recent times,once squatting is illegal,potentially 10 times homeless polulation,i worked all my life then fell over,thank god i got up again,there but for the grace of god go you.a man who loses his job now in reality has to leave london to find a roof with no hope of getting back,wonderfull.i slept a few nights on the streets,sleep being a contradiction in terms,how ironic a short time b4,i paid hundreds in tax weekly,i knocked phoned emailed every b and b kings cross to barnet,over 100.i was so cold i wanted to die,to proud to ask for help from freinds,to proud to beg,.i would hav took a sandwich though ,to criminalize a person who hands out food,i sure these people would put the homeless to sleep if they could get away with it it woulds certainly be more humane than freezing and starving to death

  36. sk says:

    It would be more sensible to make the illegals homeless then give the houses to the British people who need them.

  37. Steve says:

    I’m a bit sceptical about this, as I can’t find any sources on it. That said, if this is true, it’ll be great for private prisons. The shareholders will love it and it’ll encourage the building of more prisons, so any people with ownership or shares in such companies would gladly back this move.

  38. Brian Wainwright says:

    To prohibit giving food to the poor is an anti-Christian law. The giving of food to the poor is a Christian act. So the Tory Council wants to pass anti-Christian laws. Will this be in the Mail?

  39. sean says:

    In response to brian wainwright, Religion has nothing to do with the antisocial nature of the proposal.

    Making it illegal to give food away would have to also mean an end to british food aid across the world.

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