THE number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole was the fourth highest for any English council area outside of London in the latest annual counts.

Figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last week show that across the conurbation 72 people were recorded as sleeping rough.

Excluding the capital's boroughs of Westminster and Hillingdon, only Bristol (98), Manchester (91) and Brighton & Hove (88) had a higher total when local authority's conducted tallies in autumn last year.

The number for the BCP Council area was up 27 on the previous year – an increase of 60 per cent – putting the conurbation above the likes of Oxford, Birmingham and Leeds.

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood said while perspective was needed as the figures gave a snapshot on a single day, "clearly more needs to be done".

Bournemouth Echo: Tobias Ellwood MPTobias Ellwood MP

"The government recognises the challenge," said Mr Ellwood. "The government is giving £1.4million of funding directly to the council and they need to use that money wisely.

"We should not be seeing such large numbers. Bournemouth being a tourist resort means we are likely to get a distorted number. Nevertheless, it is a challenge we must fix.

"I know some of the people are veterans and it is so sad to see people who have served their country out on the streets."

BCP Council recently received an additional £1.4million from central government to support their efforts in reducing the number of rough sleepers.

"I hope the council make full use of this money to support people who have fallen on tough times," said Mr Ellwood.

"There are complexities with each individual case. Each individual person comes with a set of very bespoke challenges that need to be addressed.

"Sometimes the individual themselves is not wanting to face up to that but there needs to be the provision, time and resources to break down the complex challenges that would lead to a person sleeping rough.

"The government has been and is determined to reduce the numbers and nationally that is the case [down nine per cent].

"We do not want anybody to be without a roof over their head."

As reported, a recent survey of visitors to Bournemouth found three-quarters of them said they are put off from returning to the town because of the prevalence of rough sleeping.

Bournemouth Town Centre BID (business improvement district), which represents businesses, said the number of anti-social behaviour incidents had increased four-fold over the past year.

However, senior councillors have said rough sleeping numbers have dropped in recent months.

In early February, BCP Council leader Vikki Slade said rough sleeping in Bournemouth had gone down 26 per cent since December.

Bournemouth Echo: BCP Council cabinet member for transport Cllr Kieron WilsonBCP Council cabinet member for transport Cllr Kieron Wilson

Councillor Kieron Wilson, cabinet member for housing, told the Daily Echo: “As with many areas up and down the country we are seeing a rise in the number of rough sleepers in our towns. However, since the last official count we have carried out a further unofficial count in January and have seen a decrease in numbers from 72 to 53.

“Supporting those people who are sleeping rough off the streets and in to accommodation with the support they need continues to be a high priority for the council.

"We have established services dedicated to working with rough sleepers and on average we help between 15 to 20 people of the streets each month via our street outreach team alone, as well as varying additional numbers who are housed via provision by other services including partner organisations.

“Following recent additional funding of £1.4m this will help us to establish new initiatives such as the Housing First accommodation and ‘Somewhere safe to stay’ scheme which gives our outreach team a safe space to access immediately in order to engage with someone who has been on the streets. We believe that through our existing work and these new initiatives we can continue to make a difference.”

Malcolm Page, The Salvation Army's assistant director of homelessness services, said urgent action and long-term solutions are "desperately needed" to stop the causes of people becoming rough sleepers and get them off the streets for good.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the scale of the rough sleeping crisis across England is "totally unacceptable" despite the overall drop in numbers nationally from 4677 in 2018 to 4,266 in 2019.

The local authorities in England with the highest number of people sleeping rough in autumn 2019 are listed below. The number in brackets is the change on autumn 2018.

  1. Westminster 333 (up 27)
  2. Hillingdon 106 (up 36)
  3. Bristol 98 (up 16)
  4. Manchester 91 (down 32)
  5. Brighton & Hove 88 (up 24)
  6. Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole 72 (up 27)
  7. Camden 65 (down 76)
  8. Newham 64 (down 15)
  9. Birmingham 52 (down 39)
  10. Islington 51 (up 8)
  11. Southwark 44 (down 3)
  12. Lambeth 43 (down 7)
  13. Luton 43 (down 4)
  14. Oxford 43 (down 2)
  15. City of London 41 (down 26)
  16. Leeds 40 (up 7)
  17. Windsor & Maidenhead 40 (up 29)
  18. Canterbury 39 (up 6)
  19. Peterborough 37 (up 8)
  20. Milton Keynes 35 (down 6)
  21. Cambridge 33 (up 6)
  22. Crawley 33 (up 5)
  23. Haringey 33 (up 1)
  24. Southend-on-Sea 32 (up 21)
  25. Chichester 31 (up 15)
  26. Exeter 31 (up 14)
  27. Bedford 30 (down 21)
  28. Nottingham 30 (down 4)
  29. Herefordshire 29 (up 11)
  30. Sheffield 29 (up 3)
  31. Arun 28 (up 10)
  32. Northampton 28 (up 2)
  33. Reading 28 (up 3)
  34. Wandsworth 28 (up 3)
  35. Lincoln 27 (up 1)
  36. Portsmouth 26 (up 7)
  37. Ashford 25 (up 5)
  38. Brent 25 (down 5)
  39. Sedgemoor 25 (up 22)
  40. Slough 25 (down 4)
  41. Somerset West & Taunton 25 (up 9)
  42. Barnet 24 (no change)
  43. Cornwall 24 (down 29)
  44. Doncaster 24 (down 3)
  45. Enfield 24 (down 54)
  46. North Devon 24 (up 12)
  47. Coventry 23 (down 2)
  48. Bracknell Forest 22 (up 3)
  49. Leicester 22 (down 9)
  50. Mansfield 22 (up 5)
  51. New Forest 22 (up 14)