Marcus Jones: As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I begin by offering my thanks to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) for securing this important debate and for sharing her expertise in supporting the victims of this abhorrent crime. Her contribution and the many other contributions to the debate were made with great passion and great insight into...
Marcus Jones: We collect a range of financial data on local government, which is published online. Local authorities also publish their own financial data, including budget documents and accounts. We routinely engage with a range of local authorities to discuss various issues, including finance.
Marcus Jones: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we are pushing ahead with our review of fair funding for local authorities. I certainly encourage Northamptonshire County Council to look at all innovative ways to provide the services that are valued by its local residents.
Marcus Jones: We recognise the financial pressure that Northamptonshire County Council is under and we stand ready to look at any locally-led proposals from across Northamptonshire on how local government might be better restructured to transform challenges into opportunities.
Marcus Jones: Victims fleeing abuse must be given appropriate priority access to social housing. We are consulting on new guidance that makes it clear to local authorities that victims moving on from refuges should be given the appropriate priority and that any residency test should not be applied.
Marcus Jones: I can reassure my hon. Friend that that will not be the case. We will continue the funding at exactly the same level as currently. There will be a dedicated grant for local authorities that will be ring-fenced in the long term, and we will also make sure that vulnerable people will not need to deal with the payment of rent at a very difficult time in their lives.
Marcus Jones: We believe that it is right to have a locally-led approach in this regard, but we have confirmed that we are committed to reviewing this policy in 2018 under the violence against women and girls strategy. We are looking at all the options, and we have not ruled out nationally commissioning refuges and refuge beds if that is found to be a better solution.
Marcus Jones: We are spending more than £1 billion up to 2020 on the implementation of the most ambitious legislative reform in decades—the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017—and establishing a homelessness and rough sleeping implementation taskforce.
Marcus Jones: I thank my hon. Friend for her very good question. We are providing £72 million to enable local authorities to deal with the new burdens. In advance of the implementation next April, the first tranche of actual funding will go out to councils tomorrow. We will also review the new burdens funding within two years of the implementation of the Act.
Marcus Jones: Of course we want to eradicate rough sleeping as soon as is practicably possible, but we are providing funding under the Housing First pilot to help Greater Manchester, along with the Liverpool city region and the west midlands.
Marcus Jones: I pay tribute to everyone involved in charities such as Corby Nightlight. We are providing a package of over £1 billion up to 2020 to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping. Part of the package involves providing funding for services and projects such as the one in Corby, which does so much to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Marcus Jones: While the vast majority of local authorities have re-billed their businesses, it is unacceptable that some councils still have not. The Government have given councils a £435 million package of support for businesses, so I urge all councils that have not yet done the right thing to do so urgently.
Marcus Jones: The Government are still committed to further business rate retention. We have relaunched our working group, which is our officials and the Local Government Association, to take that work forward. It is important that any future reform of the system has a balance between meeting need and having an incentive for areas to grow their tax base.
Marcus Jones: I congratulate the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) on securing this debate on such an important subject. The provision of good temporary accommodation is a vital part of getting people the help they need and ensuring that a family are never without a roof over their head. The number of households in temporary accommodation remains well below the peak levels experienced...
Marcus Jones: I will certainly do what I can on that. I expect that a decision should not be too far away on the issue the hon. Lady mentions. She also mentioned rogue landlords. We have to be clear that they form a small part of the private rented sector, but wherever they exist we must work to drive them out of the system. That is why in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 we introduced further measures,...
Marcus Jones: As the hon. Lady knows, we have invested £72 million in funding for the 2017 Act. The Act is coming into force in April, but we are putting a significant amount of that funding into councils earlier, so that they can gear up for the new Act. She will know, from being heavily involved in the Bill Committee and through the process of the legislation—I commend her for that—that...
Marcus Jones: Temporary accommodation ensures that no child is left without a roof over their head. Homelessness prevention is at the centre of our approach to protecting the most vulnerable. We are spending over £950 million until 2020 to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, as well as implementing the most ambitious set of legislative reforms in decades with the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
Marcus Jones: The number of children in temporary accommodation is below its peak in 2006, but we are certainly not complacent. That is why we have put £402 million into the flexible homelessness support grant over the next two years so that local areas can plan strategically to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation.
Marcus Jones: That is exactly why we have introduced the flexible homelessness support grant and are devolving £402 million to local authorities over the next two years so that they can plan more strategically, as I said to the hon. Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker). The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the use of temporary accommodation in her area is actually falling.
Marcus Jones: The latest available figures show that the number of people in temporary accommodation in Croydon is actually falling. This Government have given £1 million to Croydon for the homelessness prevention trailblazer that it put in for. We have also given £870 million in discretionary housing payments to help people who have short-term difficulty in sustaining their accommodation.