Thursday, 24 July 2014

Council to expel homeless benefit claimants

A council has admitted it plans to move 80 per cent of homeless housing benefit claimants needing temporary accommodation out of the borough.

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Westminster Council’s finance and resources overview and scrutiny committee is considering a report which says nearly 400 families will be moved into homes outside of the borough once housing benefit cuts mean their accommodation is no longer affordable.

The report predicts a shift in the proportion of accommodation that the council books within the borough. It currently houses 70 per cent of those presenting as homeless within the borough, but by 2016 this will shift to 80 per cent of claimants housed outside Westminster.

The report says Westminster is the worst affected borough in London, with 5,000 local housing allowance claimants expected to lose out from the cuts. The council is still waiting for its allocation of an additional £10 million which was added to the discretionary housing payment, a fund making up the shortfall between rent and housing benefit payments while a tenant finds alternative accommodation.

Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: ‘These truly shocking figures show that hundreds of low-income families will be forced to uproot themselves over the coming years to parts of London with which they have no connection, no other family members and no friends.

‘Many of them working locally in low-paid jobs will now be forced to make expensive journeys back to Westminster to get to work.’

Cabinet member for housing Philippa Roe said: ‘The number of people housed outside of the borough is really very small compared to the overall caseload of housing benefit claims that we do have.

‘We want to use the DHP as much as possible for those who can prove that they need to stay in the borough, and for pensioners, whose circumstances obviously will not change, we are trying to work out a way of keeping them in the borough, although I don’t know where we’ll get the money for this from.’

This follows a stinging national assessment of the effect of the cuts to local housing allowance, which will start in April 2011 for new claimants. The impact assessment, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, admits that homelessness is likely to rise as a result of the cuts, and predicts an influx of claimants from expensive areas into cheaper suburbs.

The report, which was published at the same time as the government laid secondary legislation for a number of the cuts, says families requiring additional support from social services, teenage mothers and extended families will be particularly badly hit: losing contact with support networks and official services. It warns that schools in outer London boroughs may need to build temporary classrooms to cope with a rise in children whose families can no longer afford to live in the centre.

Inside Housing is running a campaign calling on the government to find a fairer way to reduce the housing benefit bill

Readers' comments (27)

  • Sidney Webb

    This is the exact opposite to the situation Shapps described on Breakfast this morning. Can we have some clarification if the Tory Minister or the Tory Council is correct in gauging just how many low paid, non-paid, homeless and otherwise impoverished people are going to be socially cleansed from our cities?

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  • To be fair, Shapps completely sidestepped the question this morning on TV and got away with it. You had the distinct feeling that neither of the presenters got the issue, so it was never going to be pursued. The council may have an answer and Shapps presumably will neither know nor care.

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  • Guys lets be honest here. Unless the government makes people see the harsh reality of life, i.e nothing can be free forever, people will never have the incentive to work for their lifestyle. Why should people be allowed to live in one of the best cities and locations in the world for free when hard working people cannot afford it themselves? Moving a few miles down the road in these circumstances should not be a such a big deal given they are still going to live for free at the expense of hard working people. Give the government a break and support them to get this country back into shape!

    I think a reality check here is required before we all start feeling sorry for those who do not want to contribute to society.

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  • RT thank you a voice of reason and sanity that has been missing in social housing for many years.

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  • Fear & Loathing

    There must a silver lining somewhere - even if it is only for the owners of bed & breakfast accommodation in Gulag Hastings!

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  • Sidney Webb

    RT - why fall for the drivel of the propagandists.

    The people most effected by this policy are those hard working, low paid people fulfilling essential services in our cities. Without the support of housing benefit making housing affordable these people would be forced to live outside of the capital, yet their wages would not support the cost of commuting. Are you saying that you are going to volunteer to clean your own streets and toilets, mop your floors, serve your own coffee in between earning your deserved wage?

    Why do you see 'freeloader' every time benefit is mentioned, when the reality for many is that they are minimally paid? They do contribute to society, and massivly so. Without their contributions the cities would grind to a halt and become dangerous to health. Why don't you wish to permit others to have the opportunity to carry on contributing by forcing them out of the city they love?

    And once you have socially cleansed the city, the medium paid workers will still not be able to afford to live in the houses vacated. This issue thus is not excessive housing benefits but inadequate wages. The campaign for the living wage, and the regulation of rents would remove excessive exploitation of people and the benefit system by those who are more to the 'most have' end of the social sectrum.

    So yes RT, lets be honest. A number of landlords have grown fat on the inflated rents, abusing the benefit system. A number of employers make short terms profit from low wages (unlike employers who operate in a socially responsible manner making longer term sustainable profits whilst offering fair pay and conditions to staff). Caught in the middle of this are the low paid and those without work.

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  • Sidney Webb

    Hello Mr Bull, long time no hear - but then good things must come to an end I suppose.

    How do you square the low paid doing essential work in the city not being able to afford market rents or 80% market rents within a benefit capped situation when they struggle to afford living now?

    Also, as a key figure in the leadership of a social landlord, it would be great to hear if the government's proposals are going to compound your failure or improve it?

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  • McMadman

    Who is going to do the low paid but often essential jobs in both the public sector (street cleaning for example) and private sector (office cleaning) if the local workforce are "financially cleansed" out of much of central London, not just Westmonster ?

    Having succeeded in selling off a ton of stock dodgily (cf that Tesco lass that is a Dame) now they're making it impossible for anyone on a low income to rent.

    Shapps got away with murder on breakfast. Shame on the two numpties (transl - uninformed or thick) who let him away with it. Frankly he has no greater understanding of the issues than they do.

    The question they should be asking him is - he considers his job essential. But what if someone turns up on his doorstep saying, sorry, new law. Owner or not, you just don't earn enough to keep staying here. That'd be different.

    We need to all challenge this shapps "fairness" argument. It is nothing short of a total disgrace and an act of sheer effontrey to the economically marginalised. See when people realise the effect this will have, if you think the student demos were bad you ain't seen nothing yet.

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  • PSR is right. There is also another spin off from moving people on low wages out of cities, it is unlikely that any city will have a Labour council as traditionally the lower paid gravitate to Labour. On their performance in government some might say this is no bad thing but nevertheless there will be an imbalance in inner city populations. There is also another factor to take into account, landlords in suburbs will find that their properties are in much greater demand thus encouraging them to increase rents. Public transport is certainly not cheap and therefore many low paid workers will not be able to commute to the centre of cities to work, they may well find they can no longer work. In the meantime, those in inner cities will find it difficult to recruit workers at minimum wages or less. It is really hard to see any practical or sensible answers to this conundrum, the only advantages are short term political gains which will not last.

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  • It is a very fine balancing act between using what limited money that have to the benefit of eveyone. We all agree that if you cut the benefits then there will be jobs in the big cities that no one will be able to take, but if they continue to pay these high benefits then there is no money to build elsewhere or provide homes outside of the cities, it is a horrible dilemma.
    On top of that you then have the problem of the cost of housing those who can no longer afford to live in the cites as well as there are very few jobs elswhere for them to go to. Or if the benefits are not paid will landlords rent to someone else or have to reduce the rent if no one else wants it?
    If anyone has the answer, they need to speak up now before this all goes horribly wrong.

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