The British coalition government was accused of failing the poor after it emerged that the number of people sleeping rough has risen by 23 per cent.

The government was warned its policies risked increasing homelessness and rough sleeping but these warnings fell on deaf ears

Snapshot figures from a night last autumn indicated there were 2,181 rough sleepers, up from 1,768 the previous year.

London, the South East and the South West had the highest number, with 446, 430 and 337 respectively. The North East had the lowest with 32.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps confirmed that councils would receive £18.5 (€21.8 million) to help tackle rough sleeping, on top of £400 million (€471 million) already earmarked to prevent homelessness.

“This country has some of the best homelessness services for those who become destitute in the world, but rough sleeping is still on the rise, and I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent anyone spending a second night on the street,” he said.

“Today I’m investing over £18 million (€21 million) to ensure that everyone has the advice and information they need to avoid homelessness.”

He also highlighted separate data showing that more than half of rough sleepers in London came from overseas, with a rise in numbers from Central and Eastern Europe.

Mr Shapps said: “Anyone heading here with tales of Dick Whittington in their head needs to realise that the streets of London and our other cities aren’t paved with gold.

“Those arriving from beyond our shores to try and carve out a future in England should come with a thought-through plan to avoid the risk of sleeping on the streets.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of charity Shelter, said the figures were a cause for “shame”. “These figures are just the tip of the homelessness iceberg, with many more hidden from view and moving from sofa to sofa in desperate need of a home to call their own,” he said.

“And tens of thousands of children are growing up in temporary hostels and bed and breakfasts, deprived of a decent start in life.

“The only way government can tackle this national scandal is with bold, urgent action to address the long-term causes of homelessness, alongside efforts to get people off the streets.”

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: “It is a disgrace that in our society we not only have people sleeping rough on the streets but that it is increasing.

“The harsh reality of Mr Cameron’s Britain is that more and more people face a night out on cold streets.

“The facts show that homelessness and rough sleeping are rapidly rising.”

He went on: “The government was warned its policies risked increasing homelessness and rough sleeping but these warnings fell on deaf ears. What we are seeing now is a direct result of this government’s failure.”