June 19 2013 Latest news:
by Peter Apps, Reporter
Friday, September 14, 2012
People awaiting council flats in Westminster are being moved 40 miles away from the borough to live Kent - and others risk losing their place on the council housing list if they turn down similar offers.
Latest figures show that homeless applications in Westminster have increased this month to 113 compared with 94 last month.
However, people registered as homeless are being offered accommodation in Grays, Maidstone, Bletchley and Hemel Hempstead.
Opposition Labour councillors have blamed the Conservative-run council for a shortage of affordable housing in the borough.
The changes to housing benefit and the introduction of a cap by the coalition government have also come under fire.
Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour group, said: “For many people Westminster is their home, where they have been brought up, where their family and friends live and where they live links through organisations they are part of, their work or their children’s schools.
“It’s a very big wrench for them to be told they have to move 40 miles or more to live.
“Housing benefit caps are one of the biggest reasons why there are so many people looking for homes and why the council is placing people out of Westminster and out of London.”
The caps mean weekly payments of housing benefit are limited to £250 for a one-bedroom flat and £400 for a four-bedroom property.
This makes it difficult for those on benefits to be housed in Westminster - with weekly rents estimated to be between £336 and £488 for a one-bedroom apartment and £509 to £795 for a four-bedroom house.
In April it emerged the council had discussed the possibility of moving homeless housing benefit claimants to Nottingham or Derby.
Eileen Short, chairwoman of campaign group Defend Council Housing, said: “Anyone who is in housing need in Westminster is facing being shipped out of the borough, while the council allows developers to get away with not providing the homes they should.
“They are doing by the back door what Tory governments of the 1980s tried to do by the front.”
But Cllr Jonathan Glanz, Westminster’s cabinet member for housing and corporate property, said the council would always work to provide homes for families on housing waiting lists.
He said: “When suitable accommodation cannot be found within the borough, particularly if the family requires a larger property or has no established link to the area, we seek to place them within London or as close to London as possible.
“These cases very much remain the minority, but the homes we offer are affordable with excellent transport links into central London.”