According to the Guardian, Westminster Council is sending homeless people to live in 30 different local authorities including Great Yarmouth and Essex.
“The government has called in London councils over concerns that homelessness numbers are soaring, after research revealed the scale of plans being drawn up to send families to live in temporary housing outside the capital.
As cuts shrink the number of properties affordable to people on benefits, more than 20 London local councils have rented properties as far as Corby, Cornwall, Blackpool, Southampton and Newcastle to house families that could end up on the streets in London.
Eighteen of those responding to freedom of information requests anticipate having to place people outside of Greater London next year to cope with the rising numbers of homeless families.
Housing minister Mark Prisk will meet London councils to discuss concerns about the “unacceptable and avoidable” measures that local authorities are using. Draft guidance issued by ministers in May says councils must “as far as is reasonably practicable” offer accommodation for homeless families in the borough.
But the freedom of information requests by Labour MPs and internal reports obtained by the Guardian show local authorities are sending people out of London. Tory-run Westminster is sending homeless people to live for 12 months in private accommodation procured in 30 different local authorities including Great Yarmouth and Essex.
Since 2010, Islington, where Labour are in power, have sent people as far as Newcastle. Conservative-controlled Croydon, which previously had been cutting the homeless rolls by housing people locally, has now sent families to Maidstone, Southampton and Portsmouth.
One local authority source who has been asked to attend the meeting with Prisk on Tuesday today said, “councils do not want to send people out from their local areas. We don’t want them in bed and breakfasts. This has not been happening for 10 or 12 years. Why is it happening now? Because of changes to welfare and housing benefit.”
A number of councils argue that by capping housing benefits and pegging these to the bottom third of rents, parts of London are “unaffordable” for welfare claimants to live in. The situation will get worse with the introduction in April of an overall benefit cap of £500 a week.
Last month, former Lib Dem minister Sarah Teather called the imposition of the cap on the total benefits paid to poor families “immoral”, warning imposing limits on people who live in areas such as her own constituency in north London’s Brent, where rents are high, will have a “horrible” and “traumatic” impact.
Brent has rented properties in Luton, Slough, High Wycombe and Hertfordshire and is considering the Midlands, with the council estimating that 3,000 families will no longer be able to afford rents in the borough.
Many in local government argue that the hardship is a result of policy changes made in Downing Street. Labour controlled Enfield council, said “a direct consequence of the government’s policy the council may have to locate accommodation outside Greater London”.
Jack Dromey, Labour’s housing spokesman, said his office had collated data after being contacted by MPs. He said: “The country is gripped by the worst housing crisis in a generation and the government’s failed policies are making it worse not better… hard pressed London councils are faced with having to house those facing homelessness from Cornwall to Newcastle. To lose your home is a tragedy. To face then being uprooted from friends, family and work is absolutely wrong.”
Claire Kober, Labour leader of Haringey, said councils faced “invidious choices”. She said: “We are seeing a fundamental removal of the safety net of the state.”
A communities and local government spokesman said: “Councils can meet housing need through social housing or high-quality private rented housing in their area. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, there is no excuse for moving homeless families to other areas, and they must absolutely not apply a blanket policy of relocating families out of the capital.
“This country has one of the strongest homelessness safety nets in the world, and the bigger picture is that homelessness is actually lower than for 28 of the last 30 years.”