‘We’re not a dumping ground for London’s poor’, says Derby councillor
Published by Julien Tremblin for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government
Leeds City Council leading the fight against illegal sub-letting
A Derby councillor has hit out at proposals that could see London boroughs relocating homeless housing benefit claimants in the East Midlands.
It was revealed on Tuesday that the Smart Housing Group had offered Conservative-led Westminster Council to re-house up to 150 people in the next 12 months in Derby and Nottingham.
The London council said it was looking at “temporary housing alternatives outside of the city” to cope with rising demand, along with the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.
But Paul Bayliss, leader of the Labour Group at Derby City Council, said the proposal showed that Government policies had "failed" and that such a move would be damaging for all involved.
He said: “It’s not good for Derby, it’s not good for people involved and not good for Government because it just demonstrates the poorly thought out policies that have been implemented which effectively mean that you have London boroughs wishing to ship off their poor and homeless to other parts of the country.”
Mr Bayliss raised concern over the image the proposals give of the cities concerned.
“Essentially, it gives the impression that Derby, Nottingham or Stoke could be used as a dumping ground for the capitalist poor," he said.
He explained that Derby already has to cope with its own housing problems, including homelessness, and that sending benefit claimants hundreds of miles away from the capital would do nothing to solve London’s problems.
“The solution for London is simple,” he said. “The city needs more affordable homes.”
“In Derby as well, we need at least another 3,000 to 3,500 homes to house the people currently on the waiting list.”
Despite the fact that Westminster Council would pay for their claimants to be housed in Derby, Mr Bayliss warned that if proposals were adopted, families would not just be Westminster's responsibility.
He said: “At some point there would be extra requirements behind housing such as social care, schooling. Of course, those costs wouldn’t be borne by the citizens of Westminster but by taxpayers from Derby or Nottingham.”
In its letter sent to Westminster council, Smart Hotels said they could make at least 150 properties available next year, with an option to increase the number to 500 in the future. However, the letter received is yet just a proposal.
Ben Denton, Westminster’s Director of Housing, Worklessness and Regeneration, said: “As hard working families are squeezed out of the housing market and with the demand for social housing vastly outstripping supply, the council is looking at providing fair and realistic options for applicants wishing to live in central London.
“To address this rising demand we and many other London local authorities are looking at temporary housing alternatives outside of the city both in neighbouring boroughs and elsewhere, particularly for those applicants with minimal connections to Westminster.”
The row over the future of local housing allowance (LHA) claimants in London started on Tuesday, after it was revealed that Newham Council had written to a housing association in Stoke-on-Trent, asking whether it could re-house tenants that can't afford to stay in the borough.
Housing minister Grant Shapps himself told the BBC that Newham’s move was "unfair and wrong" and that councils have been advised "not to do this".
Another London borough - Waltham Forest - yesterday confirmed that it had already housed 14 families in Luton and five in Margate and had recently acquired affordable accommodation in Walsall, more than 130 miles away.