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

  • Featured Gordon Brown to announce departure as an MP “within days”

    Gordon Brown to announce departure as an MP “within days”

    Former Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is set to resign as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath “within days” according to a report from the Sunday Mirror. Brown, who played a key role in the Scottish referendum campaign this year – giving a barnstorming speech on the eve of the vote that defined the case for the union. Brown’s rumoured departure follows his long-time ally Alistair Darling’s decision to quit Parliament in 2015. The Sunday Mirror reports: “Gordon Brown will […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Findlay says information going to party members for leadership vote is “insulting”

    Findlay says information going to party members for leadership vote is “insulting”

    Neil Findlay MSP, who is running to be leader of the Scottish Labour Party, is calling on the Labour Party to clarify what information will be given to members with Leadership ballot papers. At the moment it looks as though the booklet with candidate statements in it only lists the nominations each candidate received from Parliamentarians and not from Constituency Labour Parties, trade Unions or socialist societies. In response to this, Findlay has released the following statement: “Over the last […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s Ukip that offends working class sentiment

    It’s Ukip that offends working class sentiment

    After this week’s Twitter row at the Rochester by-election, I am using my keynote speech to the Labour East Regional Conference today to say that it is UKIP who truly offends working class sentiment and represents a party which is fundamentally un-British. Today I am lucky to serve as a Euro MP but, like many in our movement, I grew up on a council estate living in poverty, so don’t need any lectures from UKIP about snobbery. First, we can’t counter UKIP […]

    Read more →
  • News Balls says money raised from banking fines should go to the NHS

    Balls says money raised from banking fines should go to the NHS

    In a speech today at Labour’s East of England regional conference in Ipswich, Ed Balls has announced that £1bn raised from banks who are fined for manipulating the markers should go to the NHS. He is calling on George Osborne to include this in his Autumn Statement, due to take place on the 3rd December. This also comes after many health care professionals said due to funding cuts, “the NHS and our social care services are at breaking point.” Balls […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland Join the 1,000 – building a movement for Labour’s future in Scotland

    Join the 1,000 – building a movement for Labour’s future in Scotland

    Last Tuesday I stopped by a Team Findlay phone bank in Glasgow. I was expecting to see a half dozen people making calls. There were close to 40. And that was just in Glasgow. More people were hitting the phones from Aberdeen to Ayrshire and from Dundee to Dumfries to take part in what we’re calling ‘Call 4 Change’. It’s been like this since my campaign kicked off two weeks ago. We launched ‘Neil 4 Scotland’ in the Miners’ Welfare in […]

    Read more →