Newham Council under fire over bid to move housing benefit tenants elsewhere

Newham Council has come under scrutiny after it was revealed officers have attempted to move some housing benefit tenants to as far away as Stoke-on-Trent.

It has emerged the Labour-controlled authority has asked more than 1,100 housing associations in the country if they are willing to take on hundreds of homeless families.

The council said it had been left with no choice because of the gap between rents charged by private landlords and the cap in housing benefit to �21,000.

Gill Brown, chief executive of the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, said Newham Council asked them if they could accommodate 500 families.

She intends to reject the offer.

Mrs Brown said: “We think that moving disadvantaged people from their own communities and creating even more demand on services which are already under pressure makes no sense.

“When people are homeless its not just homes they need, you are removing them from their families, their jobs and their social structure.”

Most Read

Mrs Brown, who is originally from West Ham, admitted Stoke was an area with empty, poor quality housing.

She added: “The rents are low here so maybe they thought they would be saving more money. But the net effect is that people in Stoke would be pressurized out of their own housing market.”

Newham Council officers also blamed the forthcoming Olympics and an influx of young professionals for inflating the market.

But Mayor Sir Robin Wales has spoken previously about the post-Games regeneration of the likes of Stratford and Canning Town resulting in more people being attracted to living in the borough.

A Newham Council spokesman said the coalition government’s decision to cap housing benefit payments was making the problem worse.

“Homes on assured shorthold tenancies are a much better option for people than bed and breakfast or other temporary accommodation,” he said.

“Newham, along with other London councils, is under significant pressure. We are doing everything we can to ensure we have good quality, affordable housing which is fairly distributed.

“Alongside a number of other London councils, we are also exploring the option of working with housing associations outside the borough to house people with an immediate need in the private sector, when there is no other alternative.”