Burnham Press Conference

Burnham: Day one of changing politics

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

As his first act as Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham launched a homelessness fund this morning and called on the property community to donate buildings: “Whilst the city centre’s skyline is filled with cranes, our streets should not be crowded with people who have no roofs over their heads.”

Labour candidate Burnham was named Mayor on Friday, after winning 63% of the vote, beating Conservative rival Sean Anstee who secured 22.7%.

Manchester Homelessness

Rough sleeping in Manchester has become an increasingly visible issue in the past few years

Tackling Greater Manchester’s rising homelessness problem formed a key part of Burnham’s election campaign, with a promise to end rough sleeping by 2020. At 6am on his first morning as Mayor, he went out onto the streets of the city centre to meet homeless people, before confirming at a press conference that he had followed through on his pledge to donate 15% of his £110,000 Mayoral salary to the newly-created fund.

“This is day one of changing politics,” he said, describing his decision to give prominence to the issue of rough sleeping as “bringing in the cavalry” to support the work of Greater Manchester’s various existing charities.

“Greater Manchester has been fortunate enough to witness some of the fastest economic growth nationally over the past decade, but alongside this we have seen growing inequality which damages us all,” Burnham said.

When asked what he thought had caused the rise in homelessness, Burnham pointed to a failing national housing policy and Government cuts as the main causes. He also said that the attractiveness of Manchester city centre, and the generosity of residents, may have led to homeless people moving in from other areas.

To the city region’s property sector, he asked for support in his goal to deliver a shelter in every community: “Donate the use of buildings, people, please give support, whatever that may be.

Andy Burnham First Day

Burnham: Homelessness a priority issue on his first day as Greater Manchester Mayor

“If you have got a building that could be used, even for six months or a year, come forward and let us use it, because it will be used properly. It will potentially provide a temporary shelter for people, and that would be very much appreciated.

“The property sector is booming and it’s great to see. But Greater Manchester has always stood for prosperity with principle at the same time. People want to get on, but they want to give back. And I’d say that to businesses and particularly the property sector; you’ll fit in more here if you think in that way and you work that way.”

The Mayor’s Fund will act as a community foundation, an independent charity to disseminate funds to local organisations through a grant process. Anyone can donate; this crowdsourcing approach to ending rough sleeping forms part of what Burnham said is his plan to “change the way how politics works from day one”.

“Politics needs to change to regain people’s trust.”

One Manchester developer described Burnham’s strategy as “noble”, but said “donating empty buildings won’t necessarily solve the issue”.

“Asking for properties raises obvious questions, like timescales, cost, paying to open up an empty building, whether they’ll get rate relief. Developers don’t just leave buildings empty out of choice. And will providing accommodation just bring more people in from outside Manchester if they know they can get a roof over their heads?”

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Just a thought but why not increase the proposed level of homes as part of the GMSF (say to the 16,000 homes proposed by Housing the Powerhouse) and for every new unit built in the Green Belt, put a s106/CIL clause in that is ring fenced for bringing buildings back into use in the urban area (including buildings for the homeless).

By Tibs

I don’t believe the problem is a lack of space for people to sleep, but instead a lack of tackling the issues that cause people to live on the streets. A policy that sounds to me more like it’s made for headlines than impact on the streets doesn’t strike me as being “noble”, but instead just “superficial”.

By Mike

Does he really think that providing empty buildings for the homeless is going to sort the problem out. Absolutely deluded! Has he thought about who is going to manage the property when it is full of people (the majority dependant on drugs and alcohol) and any potential altercations that may occur. Are services on board to assist with the issues these people have? What about insurance of the building and its occupants?

By David

“deluded” and “superficial” the bloke is trying, day one and it’s negativity already. If nothing more it raises awareness of the issues surely.

By Pineapple Chunks

He has hit the ground running….THE man for the job!

By Schwyz

I think this is a great statement of intent. He has acknowledged there are wider forces at play that need to be addressed in terms of the causes of homelessness, but there is a visible urgent problem in Manchester city centre that needs to be addressed. I think he should be applauded for making an effort on Day One.

By Rooney

I think we all know that the line about homelessness is just that, a line. NO city, anywhere in the world has no homelessness.

By Dave E

I hope he donates some of that salary to educating some of the homeless about drug taking and what it means to work and put in to the city. building some prefabs and putting people in them doesn’t fix anything, except it “cleans” the streets of rough sleeping people.

By Steve

Whatever way you look at it in all our Cities there is a growing problem of homelessness, can we solve it just by offering a bed for the night or is it more a result of social and health service cuts and government policies, of course there are people who have addiction problems, but would n’t you in those circumstances?

By Man on bicycle

The ‘homeless’ problem is grotesquely misunderstood by 99%+ of people.

There are two types of ‘homeless’ people: those who are begging for drug money (the nouveau ‘homeless’), and the genuinely homeless, the latter having massive mental health issues and of which there are around 35 in Manchester at any given time.

By John S

“Nouveau homeless”. Wow.

By Rooney

I’m guessing you count yourself in that 99% John? What is drug/alcohol addiction if not a “mental health issue”?…

By Mike

I am fed up with the “Noveaux homeless” coming round here with their new cardboard boxes and designer ragged clothes, going on about they are self made and holiday in only the best doorways.
This is a serious problem,lots of people have been abandonded to the world.
What confuses the issue is the proliferation of “professional” beggars in Cities now, who go home each day, they are deflecting the attention the geniune homeless need, as they say ” there but for the grace of God go I”.

By Man on bicycle

Addictions are not Mental illnesses.The symptoms of mental illness can stem from addictions.In the same way,as eating too much junk food can cause cholesterol.

By Elephant

Addiction is a mental illness.

By Anonymous

Addiction is indeed a mental illness, per DSM.

By Rooney

Addiction is a chronic brain disorder, so I am led to believe.

By Man on bicycle

Addictions may have been added to DSM , but they were never classed as illnesses by Mental health professionals. People suffered mental illness because of the results of their addictions,as in higher cases of psychosis and depression.That is entirely different.There is a chicken and egg syndrome around this theory,as in were people addicts due to mental stressors?or were the mental stressors caused by the addictions?I have met people with both.To call alcoholism an illness,is the same as saying someone who eats too many chips has an illness.Just a convenient label.

By Elephant

I hope you never end up on the streets, Elephant.

By Rooney

It is a mental illness. You’re entitled to the opinion that it may not be, but it is considered to be so by the medical profession that treat it.

By Anonymous

Anon, I don’t think the argument here is really about whether drink and drug addiction is a mental illness. The concern is the current industrial scale pretence of being homeless by certain people who really aren’t, as an earning tactic which is utterly confusing the real scale of the problem (which is smaller than what it really is). Homelessness is a massively misunderstood (and therefore open to manipulation) problem. If your hot water boiler breaks down tonight you are classed as homeless according to Government statistics. So, you are classed the same as someone living on the banks of the River Irwell and who eats food waste from bins and hedgerows, and the same as someone who bikes into Manchester everyday to beg on Deansgate for spending money for drink and drugs. If that’s not a social problem that needs careful dissecting then I don’t know what is.

Apart from the two extremes I referred to originally, of course there are shades of grey of homelessness in between.

What I’m saying is it’s just another problem that is complex and not helped by the common perception of it.

By John S

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