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Lib Dems call for cross-party support to help rough sleepers

February 1, 2019 1:00 PM

Rebecca TrimnellThe Liberal Democrats are calling for the Conservatives to back moves to scrap the Vagrancy Act - as figures show rough sleeping is falling in Gloucester.

It follows the publication of official figures which reveal there were 4,677 rough sleepers across England in Autumn 2018.

In Gloucester six people were recorded as rough sleepers, compared to 15 in 2017 and 23 in 2016.

The figures are only a single night snapshot, with councils either counting or estimating the number of rough sleepers.

The Vagrancy Act, which dates from Georgian times, has come under fire from several homeless charities including Crisis, Centrepoint and St Mungo's as it criminalises people for sleeping rough, branding them "rogues and vagabonds".

It has been used over 3,000 times between 2014 and 2016, resulting in hundreds of homeless people being brought before the courts for being in violation of the Act.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran has launched her Private Members Bill - the Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill - to scrap the Act and has already gained support from the Labour Party.

Dr Rebecca Trimnell, Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, said: "The fact that thousands of people sleep rough every night shames our whole country.

"I do welcome the fact that there are fewer rough sleepers in Gloucester now than in the last few years and a lot of work has been done to help people off the streets into accommodation.

"Even six sleeping rough in the city is six too many and these figures don't even capture the many more 'hidden homeless' in insecure and unsuitable accommodation.

"We want the Government to build up to 100,000 social homes a year, provide accommodation and support those in need, and finally back the Bill to scrap the Vagrancy Act.

"This heartless law dates from the times of King George IV and is still used thousands of times a year to arrest homeless people. It is shameful that the Vagrancy Act is still in force today in the 21st century.

"Homeless people should not be deemed as rogues or vagrants but human beings that need our help."