While campaigning for election as Mayor you repeatedly told us that you could get a better deal for the West Midlands because you “have good connections with central government.” You brought Theresa May here several times to show how close you are to her. You said you’d be “knocking on the door of Downing Street” what sounded like every day.
You also told us you’d get things done, important things like tackling homelessness. “I will make this happen,” you said. “We will turn back those [homeless] numbers.” You told us time again that you “have a very clear plan” to tackle homelessness.
You’ve been in office nearly 6 months now and we’ve seen no action. Taskforces are not action. So what are you actually doing? What direct action are you actually taking to tackle homelessness in the West Midlands?
There are over 16,000 homeless people in the West Midlands, a number which has tripled since your Conservative party has been in government in London.
There are 10,000 homeless people in Birmingham alone. Homelessness in the West Midlands is increasing every year – in the year from 2015 to 2016 alone there was a huge 16% increase in the West Midlands.
The number of houses being built under this government is embarrassingly inadequate – just 780 houses were built in Birmingham last year.
The number of people sleeping rough in Coventry is three times higher than the national average.
The West Midlands accounts for almost half of the number of families living in overcrowded accommodation across the country.
Housing benefit for under 25s has been frozen at £57.34 a week since 2016 for 4 years, pushing many more young people in the West Midlands into poverty and onto the streets.
Recent statistics from homelessness charity Centerpoint show the real extent of youth homelessness is more than 8 times higher than the government admits.
Earlier this year your Tory government scrapped housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, further proving the Conservatives’ disdain for young people.
Do you support the housing benefit freeze? If not, what have you done about it?
Do you accept that this government’s policies are having a direct effect on the unacceptably rising number of young people who are homeless? If not, what have you done about it? Have you raised it with the Housing Minister?
Do you support your Tory government’s policy to scrap housing benefit for 18-21 year olds? If not, what have you done about it? Have you asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to put an end to this policy? And if you do support it why do you think it’s acceptable to punish people based on their age?
Your Tory government has cut £150m from mental health care in the last 4 years and it’s now estimated that 62% of homeless people suffer from mental illness. With your Government connections, have you asked the Health Secretary to reverse these cuts to mental health? If not, why not?
Do you support the Conservative government's policy of giving the largest cut in mental health funding in the country to Walsall’s CCG? Have you asked the Health Secretary to reconsider this funding cut that directly effects people in the West Midlands? If it, why not?
Your Tory government’s cruel Bedroom Tax affected 60,000 people in our region, many forced to pay simply because there were no smaller properties to move into, because this Tory government hasn’t been building them.
Do you oppose the bedroom tax? If so, what have you done about it? Have you used your influence with the Tory Secretary of State?
And if not, why not? And what is your message for the 60,000 people suffering it in the metropolitan region?
Do you support this Conservative Government’s abrogation of their promise to build a “new generation” of social housing? Have you written to the Housing Minister about the immediate need for more social housing to be built in the West Midlands? And if not, why not?
Your Tory government is forcing domestic violence victims into homelessness because they’re being turned away by local councils who don’t have anywhere to house them. Funding cuts have already led to 17% of refuges being forced to close down.
Do you support these cuts and closures? If not, what have you done about them? Have you made representations to the Secretary of State?
Or if you do support these cuts and closures to vital services for women in the West Midlands - why? And what is your message to the women and children suffering as a result?
I look forward to receiving your answers about the actions you’ve taken. Or haven't.
Siôn Simon MEP