Homelessness surges by 25% as the cuts bite

Demand for affordable housing is rising but supply is falling.

Amid the national euphoria induced by the Olympics, here's a grim reminder of the problems that remain. New figures out today show that homelessness has increased by 25 per cent over the last three years. According to data providers SSentif, 50,290 families and individuals were classed as homeless in 2011/12, up from 40,020 in 2009/10. Over the same period, spending on tackling homelessness fell from £213.7m to £199.8m. Correlation does not equal causation, of course, but it seems probable that the two trends are related. In Birmingham, for instance, where homelessness increased by 25 per cent, spending was reduced from £7.8 million to £5.5 million, a cut of 29 per cent. Although housing minister Grant Shapps has previously sought to deny it, the government's own figures show that social house completions fell by 97 per cent last year, with affordable housing down by 68 per cent. The problem is simple: demand is rising but supply is falling.

The largest rise in homelessness was in the east of England, with the number of cases rising from 3,660 in 2009/10 to 5,270 in 2011/12 - a 44 per cent increase. It's a similar story across the rest of the country. Homelessness is up by 34 per cent in London (from 9,460 to 12,720) and by 38 per cent in the south east (from 3,870 to 5,320). The only region to experience a fall in homelessness was the north east, where the number of households classed as homeless fell by 10 per cent from 2,010 to 1,800.

The government is understandably keen to point out that homelessness remains lower than for 28 of the last 30 years. But with unemployment expected to rise in the coming months and the full force of the Housing Benefit cap yet to be felt, today's figures are likely a harbinger of worse to come.

New figures show that 50,290 families and individuals were classed as homeless in 2011/12, up from 40,020 in 2009/10. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.