"Irresponsible politicians" have been told to "step aside" after the Government's homelessness figures released today show that 50 people died in Greater Manchester alone last year, rising to 119 for the North West region and representing 20% of the country's total mortality rate.
Across England and Wales, 597 homeless people died in 2017, representing an increase of 24% over the last five years.
Manchester Council has been in the spotlight in the last year for its drastic lack of social and affordable housing, including one development of 15,000 homes - not a single one of which was affordable despite demands from the Council's Lib Dem opposition.
In an astonishing interview published earlier this month, Manchester Council leader Richard Leese claimed there had been a lack of demand for social housing, and said, "Until relatively recently we couldn’t fill it." This time last year, he also described Christmas as "peak begging season".
More recently the council claimed soup kitchens organised by communities and outreach teams are a "bad idea", whilst also fining and trying to sue the homeless, spending £10,000 on one-way tickets to get rid of rough sleepers.
Earlier this year, they were exposed again for refusing to build affordable housing and claiming the only way to tackle "offenders" is to fine them, and just weeks ago, Leese voted against an affordable proportion of a new housing development.
Responding to the figures, Manchester Liberal Democrat leader, John Leech said:
“Anyone that walks down a street in Manchester will have seen the terrifying increase in homelessness and rough sleeping, but very few have been quick enough to recognise this crisis and both the Government and local Council have been completely inept at building social and affordable homes in any sort of effective manner.
“At every opportunity, the Government has been ignorant towards those who are struggling to make ends meet, and unfortunately that is twinned with a completely incompetent Manchester Council whose idea of dealing with vulnerable people is to spend tax payer's money shunting them to another city, banning them from visible areas, taking them to court and refusing affordable housing.
"We warned that Manchester was heading towards a London-style housing crisis and now we are faced with one of the country's highest mortality rates - it's shameful, embarrassing and most importantly, completely avoidable.
"Irresponsible politicians who have shied away now need to step aside and allow for a joined-up approach to tackle this crisis and the causes of it effectively and quickly; investing, improving mental health and local services, renovating and building genuinely affordable homes and ensuring that no one is left on our streets, no matter what the cause or reason."
The study also found:
- Men made up 84% of deaths of homeless people in 2017.
- The mean age at death of homeless people was 44 years for men, 42 years for women and 44 years for all persons between 2013 and 2017; in comparison, in the general population of England and Wales in 2017, the mean age at death was 76 years for men and 81 years for women.
- Over half of all deaths of homeless people in 2017 were due to drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide; drug poisoning alone made up 32% of the total.
- London and the North West of England had the highest mortality of homeless people, both in numbers of deaths and per million population of the region.