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South-East councils call for benefits re-think

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South-East councils have called on ministers to re-think changes to the benefits system which they say could drive up to 83,000 families out of London and place extra pressure on authorities in the surrounding region.  

London Councils last week forecast cuts to housing benefits would result in an exodus from the capital of people with the economic migrants heading for a slew of towns in the home counties, such as Hastings, Reading, Sough and Watford.

Kent CC leader Paul Carter (Con), right, said the situation was “a prime example of the law of untended consequences” and that the impact around the South-East could be “substantial”.

Cllr Carter said: “I am all for a cap but there has to be a weighting system. You pay a teacher more if they live in London than you would if they were in the North-East because of the housing costs. They have to apply a similar formula [to benefits]. The whole thing needs thinking through.”  

He added that the move could see Londoners who are already on benefits head for coastal towns in Kent, East Sussex and Essex where deprivation is already a problem.

Slough BC leader, Rob Anderson (Lab), also called for ministers to re-think the policy.

He said; “It is likely that with the combined effect of the family benefits cap, a move towards market rents for social housing, and reductions across the welfare sector there will be a surge towards cheaper accommodation in the South-East, and that inevitably means towards Slough.

“In past recessions London boroughs have shipped lower income families and asylum seekers in temporary accommodation to Slough on account of the relatively lower housing prices. We need all the available accommodation for local residents, and our budgets simply cannot support an inflow from surrounding areas.”

London Councils chair mayor, Jules Pipe (Lab), left, said: “It’s not just the direct cuts to council funding that will have an impact on our services. We already know that housing benefit changes could force anywhere up to 83,000 families out of their homes and councils will have to meet the financial costs of housing them and deal with the social costs of the resulting family upheaval.

“Cuts like this will place even greater pressure on our already overstretched resources.”

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