Last week’s news that Newham and other London councils are being forced to look elsewhere in the country to house their residents is only the beginning. The worst is yet to come, and this will be social segregation in London on an unprecedented scale and impact on other cities.
For all his iconic statements, Boris Johnson is hand-in-glove with the government on welfare reforms, and is letting this happen. It reinforces his own London Plan policies.
With the election just two days away, this issue really highlights the stark difference between Boris and Ken’s visions for the city and its people. That’s why I wrote a letter to the editor on this issue, which was published in today’s Guardian.
You can view my letter here, or read it below:
Boris Johnson said there would be no “social cleansing” on his watch. But now the government is facing incontrovertible evidence that its reforms, which Johnson “absolutely” supports, will lead to just that (Councils to ‘export’ claimants from capital as welfare cuts bite, 25 April).
Where Newham is going, inevitably others will be forced to follow. Labour MP Karen Buck said this is just “the tip of the iceberg”. She is right. The housing benefit caps are being phased in over this year for existing tenants, many of whom are in work. Next April will see the introduction of the total benefit cap, which will have a devastating impact on many London families. At the same time, this government will peg the level of housing allowance to the consumer prices index (CPI) instead of local market rent. This means that, in the face of London’s inflation-busting rent rises, housing benefit will cover less and less.
The consequences are stark. A report commissioned by Shelter showed that by 2016 only 20% of inner London neighbourhoods will be affordable to claimants. In outer London, the percentage falls from 79% in 2010 to 44% by 2016.
That is why councils are being forced to find accommodation elsewhere, placing intolerable strain on a range of overburdened local services in both outer London and other parts of the country.
Ken Livingstone says he will campaign as mayor for a higher benefit cap in London to reflect the high cost of housing. We also need a comprehensive impact assessment of these reforms on the increase in social segregation in London and other cities.
London assembly member and Labour spokesperson for planning and housing