London council trying to find homes for people affected by new housing benefit rules

Newham Council in East London has said that it is writing to over a thousand housing associations in the UK to try and find accommodation for people who are affected by new rules on housing benefits. The Labour council says that because of caps on housing benefits that it will have to move tenants to other parts of the country, sometimes hundreds of miles away. One of the places they have written to is Stoke-on- Trent.

Because of the rise in benefit costs, as part of the cost-cutting exercise, the Government is capping housing benefit to £250 per week for a one-bedroom flat up to £400 per week for a four-bedroom house. It says that it is wrong for people on tax-payer-funded welfare benefits to be housed in private properties, sometimes costing as much as £100,000 per year to rent.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, refuted allegations by Newham Council that this was ‘social cleansing’. He said that there were plenty of cheaper properties available, where people could be housed, closer to Newham. Ministers point out that people who are in employment have to move areas if they cannot afford to live somewhere, so people on benefits should be the same.

Newham mayor, Sir Robin Wales, says that rising rents in his borough means that the council will not be able to put people in private rented accommodation because of the cap. Newham is the borough of London that is hosting the Olympic Games this year.

Other London councils say that they are affected by the cap as well. These include Westminster City Council, Croydon and Waltham Forest. They are, apparently, having to send some of their tenants as far away as Hull, Derby and Luton to find affordable accommodation because of the cap.