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Just days after two homeless men tragically died in a fire at the empty building they were sleeping in, the charity Shelter has released a report that has identified Manchester as the homeless capital of the North West – where over 3,292 people are currently in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough.

Shelter’s Manchester manager, John Ryan, said that:

The figures make for tragic reading. Shelter’s founding shone a light on hidden homelessness in the sixties slums. But while those troubled times have faded into memory, fifty years on a modern day housing crisis is tightening its grip on our country. Decades in the making, this is the tragic result of a nation struggling under the weight of sky-high rents, a lack of affordable homes, and cuts to welfare support.

Despite huge cuts in funding from central government, shocking levels of homelessness, and deaths on the streets of Manchester, the city council has decided to spend an eye-watering £330 million on renovating the town hall.

A council spokesperson said:

The Our Town Hall project is probably the country’s most complex and challenging heritage project after the planned schemes for the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

The project – expected to take around seven years to complete – is set to appoint a Project Director who will be paid £140,000 a year. When the repairs are completed, the post-holder – including bonuses – will have pocketed over £1 million. Nice work if you can get it!

This latest in a line of costly vanity projects – Parliament and Buckingham Palace being the others – reveals how out-of-touch elected politicians are with the problems on their own doorstep, and is a further mark of contempt for which they hold the electorate in.

For £330 million the council could build a new, state-of-the-art town hall, end homelessness in the city, and still have £200 million left over.

Politicians and other proponents of these so-called ‘heritage projects’ will point to history, tradition, and the need to maintain cultural landmarks. Invariably, these are people that lead relatively comfortable lives and very well insulated from the horrors of poverty and living rough on the streets.

The next time someone raises the issue of homelessness, and cynically attempts to link the problem to levels of immigration, ask them what they think of their elected representatives spending £330 million on Manchester Town Hall, £370 million on Buckingham Palace, and £4 billion on the Houses of Parliament?

Ask them if they think the combined sum of nearly five thousand million could be better spent, and how? Ask them if they know that there are currently ten empty houses in the UK for every homeless person? Then ask them has the penny dropped?

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