Tory councillor: 'council should stop tenants clinging to area by their fingernails'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
A Tory councillor has said that Westminster City Council (WCC) should stop residents clinging to the borough "by their fingernails" and that there is nothing wrong with tenants in overcrowded accommodation being moved to Great Yarmouth.
Cllr Gwyneth Hampson added that some residents would be better off elsewhere.
At a meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Hampson said that she couldn't understand why The Guardian newspaper was angered with the council for sending people away from the area.
The Committee was discussing the most recent draft of the Westminster's Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2013-2016: ‘Healthier City, Healthier Lives: enabling all people in Westminster to enjoy a healthier city and a healthier life’.
The draft recommends "Restricting the development of affordable housing in areas which already have a high percentage of social tenants. This will prevent social polarisation caused by ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ parts of the city by encouraging integration of social and market tenure housing Westminster wide".
Cllr Hampson told 24dash: "Families are clinging on to unsuitable housing hoping for rehousing which will never happen, since the number of three-bedroom flats in Westminster is miniscule. I was illustrating how uncomfortable this overcrowded living is and how unhealthy."
Labour Councillor Adam Hug said: “Unsurprisingly there is nothing about a reciprocal goal of promoting the development of affordable housing in areas which currently have a low percentage of social tenants.
"The current Conservative proposal to tackle the housing impact on health and wellbeing seems to be to restrict the amount of affordable housing. How is increasing the availability of good quality affordable housing supposed to damage the wellbeing of people in overcrowded or unsuitable accommodation who might be able to move to such new housing? Clearly the Conservative position is that the council should be getting rid of low income residents for their own good."
WCC figures have also revealed that over 420 families in the borough will lose nearly £18 a week, and a further 91 families will lose nearly £35 a week when the Bedroom Tax is introduced in April 2013.
In all, 515 WCC tenants will be hit by the new tax, which reduces housing benefit if tenants are deemed to be under-occupying their homes by one or more bedrooms.
WCC says that it will try to offer smaller homes to all 515 tenants by April, but Labour councillors have said that there is no way that this can be achieved in the next 12 weeks, particularly as in the past eight months the council has managed to transfer just 34 tenants to smaller homes.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said: "This is a truly appalling situation where some of the very poorest Westminster residents will lose nearly £18 a week through no fault of their own. This new Conservative Bedroom Tax will push more people in to poverty and in to debt and into the clutches of legal and illegal loan sharks. Conservatives Ministers and Councillors should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves to force through this mean and nasty change in the rules when it is impossible for the majority of tenants to move. There simply are not enough homes available to enable tenants to move to smaller homes but the poorest families will still have their benefits cuts. It is a shameful and disgraceful way to treat the most vulnerable people."
Cllr Jonathan Glanz, WCC’s cabinet member for housing, said: "Westminster is one of the most expensive areas in the country to live in, so that is precisely why the council is working on schemes to ensure that those who work here have a chance to live locally.
"Our housing renewal programme will create more than 1,000 new homes within the next decade and in addition we have created a charity – Westminster Community Homes – which has added over 300 additional affordable homes to Westminster’s affordable housing stock over the past four years.
"If tenants have friends or connections in another part of the country and indicate to us they want to move there, then we will help. Nobody is being sent anywhere against their will.
"While the City Council cannot control the private property market, we are taking steps to ensure that Londoners from a range of backgrounds get the chance to live Westminster."