THE poorest people in Oxford are being plunged into ‘genuine destitution’ because of the city’s housing crisis, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.

Sir Vince Cable toured the base of the Oxford charity Aspire with Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran ahead of the local elections on May 3.

He accused the city council of acting ‘heartlessly’ by threatening some homeless people with fines last year and back Ms Moran’s campaign against the Vagrancy Act.

But he added the problem of homelessness, coupled with the city was that cost of living was outstripping what many of its workers could afford to pay, had created a catalogue of problems.

Sir Vince said: “[Homelessness] is in a lot of cities nationally – London is at the centre. Places like Sheffield are the same.

“But I think that the particular issue is that because of the house prices and rents in relation to earnings are so extreme that it is a very difficult people for people at the bottom of the housing market and you get genuine destitution.”

Ms Moran said the current Labour council had shown an attitude of ‘it wasn’t us so it’s not our problem’ and that it is exaggerated because the party is so strong on the authority.

She said an increased share of Lib Dem councillors on the council would mean decision would have to be made with increased scrutiny.

Ms Moran said: “I’m not saying everything they do is bad but there are a lot of things that could be done differently.”

Currently there are 48 seats on Oxford City Council, of which 35 are held by Labour.

The Liberal Democrats are the official opposition, with eight seats.

The Green Party has four seats and there is one independent councillor, Mick Haines.

In March, the Government blocked a bill sponsored by Ms Moran, which sought to repeal the Vagrancy Act. It makes it illegal to sleep rough.

Under the law, homeless people can be arrested – but Conservative MPs blocked Ms Moran’s bill from advancing through Parliament so it could not be ‘read’ again.

She said she was ‘shocked, if not surprised’ after her attempts were stymied.

Ms Moran said she would fight to keep the pressure on the Government and fight to change the law.