Tory cuts are forcing London local authorities into making preparations to relocate homeless families outside of the capital - as far away as Wales.
A leading Welsh think tank has criticised reported plans by a number of local authorities in London to move those finding themselves homeless as far afield as Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales.
According to the Guardian, councils across the capital are preparing themselves for surge in the number of people presenting themselves as homeless when cuts to welfare take hold in April.
The report continues by observing of the local authorities:
“They say rising rents in London coupled with the introduction next April of stringent benefit caps leave them in an impossible position, with no option but to initiate an outflow of poorer families from the capital by placing homeless households in cheaper areas, often many miles from their home borough.”
It continues by quoting Barking and Dagenham council director of housing and strategy, Ken Jones, as saying:
“It is going to be practically impossible to provide affordable accommodation to meet our homelessness duties in London. As the pressures increase we will be looking to procure well out of London, and even out of the home counties.”
The move, however, has been attacked by a leading Welsh think tank that seeks to address problems of poverty and inequality.
Dubbing it a sign of “the system gone crazy”, Victoria Winckler, director of the Bevan Foundation, explained:
“London councils are clearly desperate – rents are so high in the capital that it is very difficult for families who are either unemployed or in low-paid jobs to find somewhere affordable to live.
“But buying cheap houses in Wales is not the answer. It doesn’t help London families to be housed hundreds of miles away.
“And an influx of families uprooted from their friends, schools and services doesn’t help people in Wales either – there are already thousands of people in Wales looking for an affordable home, and this will only add to pressure on Wales’s schools and public services and increase the already high numbers of people relying on benefits here.”
It comes as a new survey has revealed the extent of opposition from people in Wales to the government’s welfare reforms.
An online poll conducted for WalesOnline found:
• 68% of respondents had a negative view of welfare reform and 64% would rather see them reversed than for the coalition government go ahead with an additional £10 billion cut to the budget;
• Roughly a fifth of people who responded to the survey said their benefits have been reduced since the recession, with another 9% saying they had to start claiming benefits;
• 27% said they were struggling to meet their outgoings and having to make big lifestyle adjustments with 13% saying they are at breaking point;
• 24% of respondents said they had been affected by the reassessment of incapacity benefit claims and 19% by the reduction of the Local Housing Allowance rate.
Arguing the Tory Westminster government’s welfare reforms were now having an impact on the ability of people in Wales to feed and clothe themselves, Victoria Winckler responded:
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“Despite the attempts to paint claimants as scroungers the vast majority of people who get a benefit get it because they are in low-paid jobs, have high housing costs because of the shortage of rented accommodation or are affected by illness or disability – either as a carer or themselves.
“Their benefits are their lifeline, and the combination of cuts to benefits and rising costs – especially basics like food and energy – are hitting people very hard indeed. This isn’t about people cutting back on luxuries but people making really tough decisions about how to manage to feed and clothe themselves and keep warm.”