Last chance to get free soup in Westminster?

Mrs Overall would be appalled to learn that Westminster City Council is proposing to bring in a byelaw to outlaw lying down in a part of Westminster. The byelaw ironically named ‘Byelaw for good rule and Government No 3’ also attempts to ban providing free cups of warm soup, which we understand will include all varieties of soup. So Westminster Council are also seeking to drag ‘big society’ volunteers who provide the soup run services and the homeless in to court by fining them up to £500 which they see as the best way to clear the streets of London in time to put on a happy face for the 2012 Olympics.

Westminster Council’s Rough Sleeping Team are conducting a consultation, asking for representations for or against the byelaw, which need to be submitted by the 25th March 2011 (download consultation document here) (download proposed map showing boundaries of enforcement area here).

In 2009 the London School Of Economics (LSE) published their study of soup runs in Westminster. Their study found that there was duplication and overprovision of soup runs in Westminster and that Victoria and Temple areas were particularly over provided for. Although the LSE study did use the word enforcement, they did not suggest that volunteers and the homeless should be criminalised. What they said was “Where appropriate, use preventative and enforcement measures to deal with anti-social behaviour during soup run visits.”

Cllr Daniel Astaire

Daniel Astaire Cabinet Member for Society, Families and Adult Services seems to believe that volunteers caught giving free food to nearly anyone in Victoria should be fined and given a criminal record and that a £500 fine for a homeless person will make them think twice about being caught homeless again. Or perhaps Astaire secretly hopes these undesirables will obediently move away to become another boroughs problem. Cllr Astaire also said: “Soup runs have no place in the 21st century and it is wrong and undignified that people are being fed on the streets. Handing out free food only serves to keep people on the streets for longer, damaging their health”.

But there is a place for ‘charity’ in Daniels heart as he is on the board of directors for London Marathon Limited. Ring any bells yet?  It should do as it was the London Marathon Limited that were exposed by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme for only passing on a quarter of the money raised by the Marathon to its parent charity. And didn’t one London Marathon member trouser £250,000 in wages? We don’t know if that individual was Daniel because his little charity are far from open and transparent when it comes to talking about the money that’s “eaten up in salaries and undisclosed costs”. Councillor Astaire does consider the very lucrative London Marathon, part of which runs through Westminster in his proposed byelaw, by including an exemption in it allowing free refreshments to be given to anyone taking part in a sporting event.

But Councillor Astaire isn’t standing alone with regard to making criminals out of these ‘big society’ soup run volunteers, as he has claimed that both Thames Reach and StMungo’s support the idea of banging up anyone who wants to show a bit of kindness to those who are not as well off as Daniel Astaire. Although poverty pimps Thames Reach are quite happy to play good little coppers on behalf of the state to keep their greedy paws on dwindling funding, St Mungo’s don’t quite sing from the same hymn sheet as Astaire or Thames Reach.

St Mungo’s sayWhile supportive of a consultation to see what public reaction is to a bye-law on prohibiting soup runs, St Mungo’s will, however, be expressing to Westminster that the bye-law should not seek to ban rough sleeping. Rather, St Mungo’s is reiterating its call for government to introduce a Right to Shelter.”

Mike McCall, Executive Director of Operations, said: “We are not supportive of any proposals that might stigmatise someone forced to sleep rough. The challenge is for all agencies to work together to provide a consistent approach which prevents rough sleeping, and helps those who are stuck on the streets into accommodation and support. This would be given a real boost if there was a universal right to shelter, rather than a reliance on goodwill and local discretion towards meeting basic needs of many homeless men and women.”

David Coombe of Street Souls

So what about the accusations that there needs to be better coordination between soup runs? Nutsville put that point to David Coombe of Street Souls, he told us “I agree with that and there does need to be a code of conduct with the soup runs, everyone needs to clear up after themselves, which was one of the complaints made.” So what did David think about soup runs encouraging rough sleepers and that there are places for the homeless to go, David said “It’s partially true that there are things in place for homeless people, but if you’re a male over the age of 20 particularly if you also have an alcohol or drug dependency problem you may not get into these places it can be very very difficult.” David went to say that “We [Street Souls] are opposed to the ban and we hope that lots of other parties will join us.”

It may interest our readers to know that nearby charity The Passage which Westminster Council has a greater than 51% control of, recently sent round a letter to it’s staff dictating that any service users caught by the police sleeping rough would be denied access to the Passages services for six months. That will teach them to be homeless and have the cheek to ask for help!

Now as members of the Nutsville team have had experience of being homeless, we can say that if there were enough building based services available there are some very good reasons why you may prefer to remain on the streets. Many homeless people can have problems with authority figures, or simply consider through their experiences that it’s safer for them to remain on the streets.

We say ‘enough’ building based services because as Nicky Gavron of Labour Lists reveals that even despite Westminster Council being one of the very few boroughs which received increased funding for acute housing need he says “they are actively seeking to close the very hostels and services that help people off the streets and into a life of normality. One of these is the 100-plus bed Victoria Hostel in Castle Lane.”

We end with just two comments about Westminster Councils latest policy move taken from front line workers forums, they sum this up much better than we could:

“This proposal consists of re-defining extreme poverty as a social offence called ‘rough sleeping’ which can only be addressed by criminalising those who care for the poor. A large number of homeless are ex servicemen, add that one up!“

“Listen to them. Provide cups of tea, coffee, sandwiches. Scarves, hats and gloves in cold weather. Build relationships. Listen to them. Listen to them and talk to them. Did I mention listen? Treat them like human beings.“

More on this

The Conservative Assault on the Homeless

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Other news

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There have been accusations made against Nutsville by the NTBPT campaign group that Nutsville have not been posting recently because we have made a deal with Westminster Council.

Nothing could be further from the truth, we have been dealing in death, lots of it, and so we strongly resent these unfounded paranoid disgusting accusations and as a result of the work of complete fiction sent to us today from the NTBPT’s campaign groups so called leader/dictator will now be posting a full and detailed reply soon.

Yes, a warts and all expose to warm the cockles of any Westminster Council officer.

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1 Comment

Susan TaylorJune 25th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

as a resident of Westminster I agree with Cllr.Daniel astaire. We are now in June 2012 and are suffering from a fallout of crime , begging and anti – social behaviour from large groups of homeless people and residents of King George v hostel. I am retired now and do not enjoy being accosted or threatened when walking locally in the middle of the day and at the weekend. I used to happily walk home from work late in the evening but feel for my family who have to do this now. Crime has dramatically risen – 44 % in South Westminster in the last year.

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