West Midlands mayor must travel in luxury to help the homeless

“A Tory mayor has sparked outrage after spending £500 of taxpayers’ cash on a chauffeur to drive him to a meeting on homelessness.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street splashed the “obscene” sum on the “exclusive” service to take him and an aide to Heathrow Airport and back home again.

In his manifesto when he ran to become mayor, Mr Street insisted: “I want to keep the costs of the mayor’s office as low as possible.”

The lavish spending by the former John Lewis boss can be exposed by The Mirror after his travel costs were revealed under freedom of information laws.

Birmingham Labour MP Steve McCabe branded the chauffeur-driven journey “obscene”, adding: “The money would have been better spent on night shelters and soup kitchens here in the West Midlands.”

The number of people forced to sleep rough in the West Midlands has shot up since 2010.

In November 2017, Mr Street visited Helsinki, Finland, in November 2017 to see an approach to tackling homelessness called Housing First.

Invoices obtained under freedom of information laws show the one-day trip cost £2,216.88.

The cost included a bill for £530.40 to transport an aide from Birmingham and Mr Street from Westminster to Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport.

The chauffeur then drove the pair back from London to Birmingham at the end of the day.

The website of the chauffeur company, Chauffeured By Car, says it operates a “discreet, professional service” offering “first class luxury travel”.

It adds: “You can simply relax, leave all the worry about directions and traffic to us, and enjoy the journey. To Chauffeured By Car your journey is our passion and we are committed to providing you with a world-class service.”

Detailing the one-day Helsinki trip, documents from West Midlands Combined Authority say: “Housing and land use is a key priority for the West Midlands Combined Authority.

“As part of this one of the key areas the mayor is focusing on is homelessness and rough sleeping. This visit represented a fact finding and lessons learnt exercise on homelessness issues.”

Housing First is credited with making Finland the only European country to see a fall in long-term homelessness in recent years.

It has been successful at ending homelessness for at least eight out of 10 people in the scheme.

This is compared to hostel-based accommodation which has resulted in between 40% and 60% of users with complex needs leaving, or ejected, before their homelessness is resolved.

Mr Street claims the Helsinki trip helped him secure £9.6million in funding in May this year for the West Midlands to try to end the scandal of rough sleeping in the region.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mayor-splashes-500-taxpayers-13421748

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