Camden Labour is doing everything it can to help families affected by benefit changes

February 14, 2013 3:47 pm

Camden has been criticised this morning for our approach to families affected by the housing benefit and total benefit caps. One tweeter used a thinly veiled reference to Kinnock’s criticism of Hatton’s Liverpool of the 80s. Camden, like the other London councils that are already doing this has no choice. The draconian benefit caps introduced by this government bear no relation to the costs of living in London and ultimately, families will be forced from their homes, jobs and their children from schools because of Tory dogma.

First things first. Camden has not yet moved a single person out of London. Many other London boroughs are already doing this. It’s very unlikely that all 761 families affected by the total benefit cap will need to move. But at this stage we simply don’t know how many will.

The Government has left all councils in London in an invidious position. Reckless cuts to welfare benefits are forcing the hands of local authorities in London. Communities in Camden currently face an uncertain future as the threat of housing benefit and total benefit caps loom on the horizon. This government policy is driven purely by Tory dogma.

A staggering 761 households in Camden will be affected in some way when benefits are capped at £500 per week or £350 for single people. Camden is very successful in working with people, helping them into employment, negotiating rents with landlords or finding cheaper local accommodation – steps that allow them to either stay in their homes or stay locally. But there is only so much we can do to protect some of our most vulnerable residents from this heartless Government policy.

The Department for Work and Pensions regularly roll out the line that it isn’t fair that people in receipt of welfare payments receive more than the average national salary of £26,000. However, in Camden, the average wage is £37,000 and rents reflect this.

In the private sector the average rent for a two bedroom property in Camden is £450 per week. Basic mathematics shows that if benefits in London are capped at £500 per week for a household it will be impossible for local families to continue to live in their current accommodation.

As a Council, Camden has an excellent track record of helping people into training and employment and doing this will help some of the affected households remain in Camden. Labour in Camden have also seen some success in negotiating private rents down with landlords enabling many people who’ve already been affected by the housing benefit cap to stay in our borough. But this isn’t going to be possible for everyone. The Local Housing Allowance caps, that bear no relation to high housing costs in Camden – the 4th highest rents in the country – mean that some people will be left trying to make up many hundreds of pounds per month.

The Government’s complete lack of a plan for the many families forced to move, not just in Camden but across London, means that when the cap is introduced a small number of households, those with a number of children will not be in a position to afford rents in London. Labour in Camden will do everything possible to ensure that as few people as possible have to move away from their established communities.

Rather than fall for government rhetoric that those claiming benefits are scroungers, in Camden many of those affected are working. People who carry out low paid work who would not be able to continue to do so if commuting costs are factored into their already stretched budgets. This is where the proposals create a false economy – if moved out of London by government cuts to welfare benefits it is likely that these people will not be able to continue in employment and in turn claim further welfare benefits.

The blanket cap from government is ill-conceived and will have a once in a generation impact on the lives of many across the capital. Without a central government plan that takes into account the high rental costs of the capital we face the very real threat of communities being displaced as they seek accommodation that is affordable.

Labour in Camden is setting aside £1.1 million to deal with the expected increase in homeless applications over the next financial year. This is coming from budgets that have been slashed back by government already, but Labour are committed to trying to keep as many people as possible in Camden, in their communities and in the places where they are settled and happy.

 Sarah Hayward is the Leader of Camden Council

  • Pingback: Camden Labour » Blog Archive » Camden Labour is doing everything it can to help families affected by benefit changes()

  • Dave Postles

    Thanks for all your efforts in such an invidious position. It also illustrates just how dysfunctional London has become – the epitome of the divided society.

  • Dave Postles

    Thanks for all your efforts in such an invidious position. It also illustrates just how dysfunctional London has become – the epitome of the divided society.

  • http://twitter.com/youngian67 Ian Young

    Would the introduction of rent controls really be such a perilous strategy for Labour?

    With interest rates so low (which is no bad thing) it is not surprising so many savers in
    London are plunging into the buy-to-let property market where rents can produce an annual yield of 7-10 per cent.

    Their capital investment is rising every year, causing a continuing shortage of
    property for sale to first-time buyers and adding to house price inflation. Shelter estimates that if a supermarket chicken had risen at the same rate as London houses in the past 40 years it would cost £42.

    The worst effect of rent controls would be a glut of buy-to-let property on the market which means lower prices for first time buyers or government, social landlords and local authorities buying up the stock with capital borrowing at negligible interest rates.

    Our previous buy-to-let investor would have to look elsewhere to invest their capital like SME start-ups which are desperate for investment capital for medium term expansion.

Latest

  • News “What would you call it?” Nigel Farage defends use of racist term by UKIP candidate

    “What would you call it?” Nigel Farage defends use of racist term by UKIP candidate

    Nigel Farage has defended the use of a racist term used by a UKIP candidate – who had to resign after his bigoted comments were uncovered. Kerry Smith, the party’s candidate in target seat South Basildon and East Thurrock, had been caught using homophobic and racist language in a phone call, and resigned as PPC on Sunday night. In a statement, he said that he wanted “to see the real issues discussed that touch the lives of people” – but […]

    Read more →
  • Featured An election pledge card of two halves?

    An election pledge card of two halves?

    So far Ed Miliband has revealed two of Labour’s General Election pledges – first was a commitment to eliminating the deficit, which was quickly followed by a second on immigration. These pledge have been broadly supported by LabourList readers in our weekly survey this week, and that’ll be good news for Miliband and his team as they begin go think about their Christmas break, as these pledges were always likely to be the most contentious and hardest to sell to Labour […]

    Read more →
  • News Salmond hints at giving support to a minority Labour government

    Salmond hints at giving support to a minority Labour government

    The SNP’s convention says that it’s MP will not vote on English laws. However, former SNP leader, Alex Salmond has said they might be willing to put this to one side, to support a minority Labour government if no party wins an outright majority next year. In an interview with the Independent, Salmond explained “I would lay odds on a balanced parliament. “That’s an opportunity to have delivered to Scotland what we have been promised.” Giving the example of two […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News LabourList readers back Miliband’s pledges

    LabourList readers back Miliband’s pledges

    Last Thursday, Ed Miliband made Labour’s first election pledge, Conor Pope gave us the low-down of what this meant.  Effectively, Miliband said Labour would reduce the deficit but noted that a next Labour government would do so while securing the future of the NHS. Labour is long portrayed as the fiscally irresponsible party, and this speech saw Miliband try to rectify this mischaracterisation. So we wanted to know what LabourList readers thought about this pledge. The news looks good for the Labour […]

    Read more →
  • Comment There’s more to Higher Education than the REF

    There’s more to Higher Education than the REF

    Yesterday, British universities were in a spin. The result of six years of stress and anxiety, management pressure and absurdly bureaucratic language is out. We know the REF scores. We know, in other words, the numbers that every university department in Britain have been given for the quality and impact of their research over the last six years. The REF dominates university life. It decides appointments and shapes the way university managers treat staff – many hire research ‘stars’ at […]

    Read more →