David Cameron’s decision to reject EU funds to tackle homelessness has been a disaster, a local MEP has said.
Speaking after new figures showed that rough sleeping in Greater Manchester has risen by 227% since 2010, North West MEP, Afzal Khan said that the Prime Minister should explain why in 2013 the UK rejected EU funds which could have helped.
The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, which is worth £2.5 billion, is available to help EU countries tackle problems like rough sleeping and food poverty.
When the fund was set up in 2013, the government said that the UK was opting out because it believed it could deliver better and more efficient support to homeless people.
Yet since then homelessness across Greater Manchester has almost doubled and nationally rose by a third in the past year.
Afzal Khan MEP said:
"It is heart-breaking to see homeless people huddled in shop doorways and sleeping on freezing cold streets, in the 21st century. We can, and must do better.
"But first David Cameron must come clean about why he still refuses to access EU funds to tackle the rising problem of homelessness in Britain.
"Three years ago the Prime Minister turned his nose up at accepting help from the Fund for the Most Deprived because he thought he could do a better job of tackling homelessness without it.
"But since then he has been proved totally wrong and his hubris has meant that rough sleeping in Greater Manchester is double what it was in 2013.
"So I’m urging the Prime Minister to think again about accepting EU help and do much more to end the tragedy of rough sleeping in Britain."
Manchester city centre councillor Kevin Peel said:
"I'm delighted that Afzal has raised this issue at a European level and written to David Cameron since we're getting nowhere with national government.
"The government talks tough on tackling homelessness but their cuts to welfare and to council budgets mean more and more people are being forced to sleep rough on our streets. The figures in Manchester are startling and something must be done before this crisis worsens.
"I urge the government to access the available EU funding and to think again on slash and burn cuts to local government homelessness and rough sleeping services."