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Exclusive: London exodus surges as welfare and housing pressures take toll

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The number of families given council help to leave London rose sharply last year as welfare cuts and the housing crisis forced hundreds of households to move out of the capital.

This is the finding of an LGC study of 2,438 moves around and out of London between April 2012 and August this year.

The data from 15 London boroughs points to a 76% rise in the number of families given financial assistance to leave the city between 2012-13 and 2013-14, from 119 to 210.

The number of areas to which people moved also increased, reaching 80 - up from 37 in 2012-13. London residents were helped to move as far afield as Newcastle, Cornwall and Scotland.

The findings came in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from LGC, which found councils had helped residents to move by paying for removal fees, rent payments and rental deposits.

According to London Councils, the migrations were due to the acute shortage of housing, rising costs and the government’s welfare reforms, which include a £26,000 benefits cap and the removal of the spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’.

Council-assisted moves also resulted in increased internal migration in London, as boroughs helped just over 2,000 households to relocate within the city (see graphic overleaf).

The number of households moved with London rose from 727 in 2012-13 to 944 in 2013-14.

Our analysis pinpoints Haringey and Enfield as the only two of 15 respondents with increased populations as a result.

Hackney LBC saw the ­largest net loss. While other boroughs helped 127 families to relocate to the east London borough, Hackney assisted more than four times as many (564) to leave the area for other London boroughs.

The 277 households moved into Enfield by other boroughs have pushed up house prices and displaced its own residents as landlords sought to “maximise rental returns”, a spokesman for the borough said.

The relatively low cost of housing in north-east London was behind the “pattern of movement” into suburban boroughs such as Enfield, he added.

“Enfield has been particularly and disproportionately affected by inward migration of both families housed by other boroughs in temporary accommodation [for the homeless] and through other schemes,” he said.

In turn, Enfield helped the largest number of households leave the city.

In 2013-14 it assisted 55 families to leave for 23 areas outside London, including Birmingham, Manchester and Tendring, the council with one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, Jaywick Sands.

Enfield cabinet member for housing Ahmet Oykener (Lab) said these residents had been hit by the government’s £26,000 annual benefit cap and were helped to move to “more affordable” areas. 

“This resulted in a number of households returning to places where they had previously lived or had family connections,” he said.

All moves were “entirely voluntary”, he added.

Birmingham City Council, to which a dozen families had been helped to move, said the migrations showed the “significant problems” of families hit by welfare cuts.

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing John Cotton (Lab) said it had taken “proactive steps to work with London boroughs” to minimise impacts on its new residents and the city.

“This has included constructive discussions regarding referring details of households and their needs to our housing options service,” he added.

Paul Price, corporate director of Tendring DC in Essex, said migrations were having a “catastrophic impact” on council services and its new residents. “I understand the issues London boroughs have, but they are not quite grasping the effect they are having on local communities, the infrastructure and the people themselves.”

Mr Price said the figures supplied by London boroughs to LGC under-represented the scale of the ­migration.

His own analysis of Department for Work & Pensions figures indicated more than 100 families in receipt of social security moved to Tendring from London between June 2012 and June 2013. Our analysis picked up just 24 moves during two-and-a-half years.

He criticised as inadequate a “guidance note” drawn up by London housing directors this year to ensure boroughs outside London were told when homeless households were moved into their areas.

“Very few people are moved out because they are homeless,” Mr Price said. “Others are helped under ‘voluntary arrangements’.

“They are told: ‘You can’t afford to pay your current rent. If you get into arrears you will be evicted and your chances of getting a council home are zilch. We could put you into a bed-and-breakfast or you could relocate outside London and we will pay your removal costs.’”

A spokeswoman for London Councils said: “The acute shortage of housing in London, rising housing costs and the impact of welfare reforms is making it increasingly difficult for many households to find affordable accommodation.”

The guidance note would encourage “effective working between council officers”.

The findings have emerged in the week a Court of Appeal judge found in favour of Westminster City Council after it was challenged over an offer to rehouse a family in Bletchley. Lord Justice Moore-Bick said if he had found in favour of the appellant, that boroughs must first look closer to home, it would have “put local housing authorities in an impossible position”.

London migration




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