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Housing Benefit cuts could force families out of London, say councils

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By Jaimie Kaffash

16 July 2010

The government’s cap on Housing Benefit could lead to almost 15,000 families in London losing their homes, councils in the capital have warned.

The London Councils group said the cost of private renting in the capital is far greater than elsewhere and setting an arbitrary cap discriminates against families in London. In figuresreleased today, the councils claim that around 14,700 families could be forced to move home or live in overcrowded conditions. Of the 18,600 families that could be affected in total, around 10,000 are in inner London. If these families move to cheaper accommodation, this could put an extra burden on outer London boroughs’ housing and education services, the group is warning.

Hackney mayor Jules Pipe, the chair of London Councils, said that ‘while everybody recognises the need to reform’, a blanket cap would have ‘unforeseen consequences’.

‘Many of the people who will be affected are in work but on low incomes and play an important role in keeping London’s economy and public services going. In some inner London boroughs, as many as half of the families in receipt of this benefit work for a living, but if they are forced to move away they may have to give up their jobs.

‘We want the government to revise the cap for inner London or allocate a budget to make sure that inner London can cope with the massive shortfalls the caps generate.’

The Shelter housing charity last week warned that some struggling households in London would have a shortfall of up to £1,548 a month to meet housing costs.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘The increased rental costs people will now have to find each month will force many Londoners to leave the homes and communities they work in, and often grew up in, and move further out in search of cheaper rents. Long term this could create clusters of poverty and inequality, creating an even bigger gap between rich and poor.’

Yesterday, housing minister Grant Shapps warned that there were no reliable statistics of how many people were sleeping rough.

Shapps was commenting on a Department forCommunities and Local Government study showing that the number of rough sleepers in England had hit an 11-year low. A survey of 70 councils found there was a total of 440 rough sleepers in those areas every night. This is down from a 2009 survey of 76 councils that put this figure at 464.  

But the housing minister said that the methodology of the study was flawed. Only councils perceived to have a problem with homelessness were asked to take part. He said he would shortly publish plans to overhaul the way rough sleeping is assessed.

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