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Why upcoming local elections offer a chance to influence homelessness policy

On 2nd May elections will be held for councils and mayors in England, including 58 district authorities, 18 unitary authorities and 31 metropolitan districts. To see what elections are taking place in your area/the area in which you work, head to the Electoral Commission’s website.

While central Government controls the funding local authorities receive, local councillors do have significant powers that impact homelessness. From decisions around the building of new homes for social rent, to how existing stock is allocated, to funding decisions that could directly affect the service you run, the make-up of a local council has a big impact on housing and homelessness issues within your local area.

The public will also vote for 10 metro Mayors across England on May 2nd. Metro mayors are directly-elected leaders who chair combined authorities to which powers have been devolved from Whitehall. These include Sadiq Khan in London,  Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Andy Street in the West Midlands for example.

Metro Mayors have significant powers over housing and homelessness policy. We have seen the impact of this in the last few years. In Greater Manchester, its concerted homelessness prevention efforts, including its A Bed Every Night programme, have seen rough sleeping fall by 44% since the peak in 2017.

As such, the next month or so is the perfect time to engage potential councillors and mayoral candidates in your area. Using the run up to an election to cultivate these relationships can not only influence local decisions over the next term, it can also mean you have good contacts if you ever want to raise issues moving forward.

Candidates like to be seen to be on top of local issues and connecting with the community, so contacting them, either by email or through social media, and inviting them to visit your service is a really effective way to engage. Seeing your work in action will help them understand the value you bring, which could serve your service well in the long-run. However, if you are understandably too busy to entertain someone, simply asking for a chat over the phone is still a good way to get your voice heard.

If you do decide to go down this road, then just be mindful of the laws around charity campaigning. Our Election Campaigning Toolkit has a helpful summary. They are very simple and should not stop your advocacy work.

Working locally can also give you influence on the national stage. For these elections in particular you may well find that your local council candidates are accompanied by their Parliamentary candidates. Even if they don’t come too, you can be sure they will be talking to each other. If you want to talk about national issues don’t forget to look at our Manifesto to End Homelessness.

Meanwhile, the deadline for registering to vote in the elections on May 2nd is 16th April. Too often, homelessness is pushed to the bottom of the priority list by those in power because people experiencing it are less likely to vote. Therefore, helping the people you support to register is key to changing this in the long-term. Take a look at Gov.uk for more information. And remember, voters are required to bring ID to vote in this election.

If you are interested in engaging prospective councillors/mayoral candidates, but are unsure how to go about it, feel free to send me an email with any questions.

 

Channel website: http://www.homelesslink.org.uk

Original article link: https://homeless.org.uk/news/why-upcoming-local-elections-offer-a-chance-to-influence-homelessness-policy/

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