Sally Keeble has warned about the risks to women caused by the lack of refuge accommodation for people affected by domestic abuse.
And she said that the Government’s proposed new law on domestic abuse must be backed by funds or it would be worthless.
Her warning came after people who tried to get away from abusive partners were told they would have to travel miles out of Northampton to find safe accommodation. On one occasion a woman was told that the closest refuge with spaces for her and her children was in Scotland, and another was told she would have to go to Lincoln, Wolverhampton or beyond.
In recent years spending cuts have hit refuge services across the country. Refuges have lost about a quarter of their local government funding since 2010, and one in four refuges have lost their funding for therapeutic services. Sometimes people need to leave a local authority area to escape abuse: however, often families with children need to stay within reach of schools and networks of family and friends.
Northampton has three refuges funded by health and charitable funds, and two funded by housing benefit with some support from lottery funding.
Sally Keeble said: “The new Domestic Abuse Bill contains some welcome provisions, including on accommodation. But unless the funds are provided to make these a reality, the bill won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.
“In recent months some domestic abuse victims in Northampton have been given the option of moving a long way out of town, which means removing their children suddenly from school and friends and family networks, or remaining in a house where they are at risk. It is an impossible choice. On one occasion a woman was told that the closest refuge that could provide her with accommodation was in Scotland. The lack of safe accommodation leaves women exposed to risk.”