London boroughs are “outsourcing their waiting lists” and undermining the allocations policies of councils in other areas, according to a Conservative MP.
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, issued the warning in Parliament earlier this week and is seeking a meeting with the Government to demand that the issue is prioritised.
He said private sector landlords were converting accommodation designed specifically to take in a growing number of applicants on London borough waiting lists. He said London boroughs were often prepared to pay more for the service, but that the practice was limiting the private sector stock which Bournemouth could lease to house its own waiting list.
He said that in these cases the London boroughs had no dialogue with Bournemouth council or the police as “many such people arrive with a lot of antisocial problems”.
He asked new communities minister Don Foster whether the “growing practice” was right?
Mr Foster said: “No, I do not, and we have put in place a number of measures that we hope will provide protection, but the crucial thing to remember is that the powers relating to affordable social homes have now been given to the Mayor of London, who is very clear that over the next few years, he will deliver at least 55,000 additional properties, which I hope will ease the situation.
A number of London boroughs – including Croydon, Westminster and Newham – have gone public with plans to offer families homes outside their local area. Croydon is going into partnership with Richmond, Kingston and Sutton councils with a view to jointly obtaining 150 properties outside London.
The councils argue that there are simply not enough properties in their boroughs that fall within the new Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, much less the £500-a-week benefit cap, due in next year, or even private rented sector landlords who will consider benefit claimants as tenants.
Mr Ellwood acknowleged that housing benefit cuts were playing a part.
The Government is seeking to restrict local authorities’ ability to place families in stable accommodation outside of their area.
Mr Ellwood added: “London boroughs outsourcing those on benefits and not getting in touch with the council in the area where they are being housed is getting extremely serious. The Government should prioritise this.”