Mayor Andy Street welcomes plans to tackle menace of Spice in city centres

Mayor Andy Street welcomes plans to tackle menace of Spice in city centres

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has warned that synthetic drugs such as Spice are an increasing problem in city centres.

The drug, which leaves users in a zombie-like state, is highlighted in a new £100 million strategy to cut rough sleeping, which has been published by the Government.

Mr Street welcomed plans to improve mental health support for rough sleepers, adding: “I think also the recognition of the challenge presented by synthetic drugs – particularly spice, which is so visible in our city centres – is a really important step.”



Two men who appear to be Spice users in Birmingham

He said: “The Rough Sleeping Strategy announced by Government today recognises that even one person sleeping rough is too many.”

The strategy includes training for frontline staff on how to help people under the influence of Spice.

There is also £50 million for homes outside London for people ready to move on from hostels or refuges, and £30 million for mental health support for rough sleepers.

A new network of specialist “navigators” will help rough sleepers access services and accommodation.



West Midlands Mayor Andy Street
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

And the Department for Education has announced £3.2 million for 47 areas to employ specialist personal advisers to support care leavers who are most at risk of sleeping on the streets. Birmingham is one of the areas to receive a share of the investment.

The fund was welcomed by homelessness charities as a significant step towards helping the estimated 4,751 people sleeping rough on English streets on any given night.

However, the strategy came under fire after Housing Secretary James Brokenshire admitted there was no new money behind it.

Mr Brokenshire said half the cash had already been committed to rough sleeping and the other half was “reprioritised” from existing budgets in his department.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes, some of this is reprioritised… reprioritised from within existing budgets where we have underspends and issues such as that.

“There are significant sums of money being focused and targeted.

“Half of that has already been committed to homelessness and rough sleeping.

“The other remaining half of this is money that’s new to rough sleeping and homelessness, reflecting and recognising the priorities and importance of taxes.”



Housing Secretary James Brokenshire

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “The Government’s rough sleeping plan has unravelled just hours after it was announced. It’s now clear there is no additional money for the Housing Department to tackle the crisis of rough sleeping.

“Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 thanks to decisions made by Tory Ministers, but this feeble plan lacks any urgency.

“The next Labour Government will end rough sleeping within our first term in office, making 8,000 homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping.”

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate had welcomed the strategy with the caveat more must be done to tackle issues around housing benefit and lack of housing.

She said: “This strategy is an important step forward in the fight against the rough sleeping emergency that’s led to people dying on our streets.

“But let’s be clear, this is a step forward and not a total fix for homelessness.

“We still need to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, deep instability of renting, and problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home.

“If the Government wants to eradicate rough sleeping for good, this strategy must be quickly followed by a new plan to build many more social homes and efforts to create real security for those struggling with their rent.”