27 Oct 2010

Housing benefit cap: concessions considered


The government has confirmed it is considering concessions to its plan for a cap on housing benefits, as first reported by Channel 4 News FactCheck.

Housing benefit cap: concessions considered

It comes after FactCheck revealed that around a dozen Tory MPs representing London seats aired their grievances in a meeting in Westminster yesterday over the planned housing benefit cap.

FactCheck’s Cathy Newman said: “They want special measures for the capital – either a delay in the introduction of the cap (currently scheduled for April) or a higher cap”.

MPs and charities fear the cap could force people to leave cities where rent is that much higher.

Under plans announced in the Budget, housing benefit is to be limited to £400 a week for a four bedroom house, or £290 for a two bedroom flat. But because housing costs in London are so high, rents in many parts of the city exceed that. So there are fears the poor will be driven out of the centre. Labour says it amounts to social cleansing. Some Tory MPs fear the opposition may have a point.

Concessions on the housing benefit cap. Read more from Cathy Newman's FactCheck.

One MP told Cathy Newman: “It’s pretty important that Iain Duncan Smith [the work and pensions secretary] realises that London is going to need some kind of transitional arrangements – an elongated time frame for London or a higher cap. We are going to be packing trains full of the poor and most disadvantaged and packing them off to outer London.”

Some councils are booking bed and breakfast accommodation on the coast to house people who are driven out of their homes.
Two other Tory MPs demanded concessions for London at the meeting. The party’s deputy chairman Michael Fallon, who also attended, will now pass their concerns back to ministers.

An aide to the Welfare Secretary told FactCheck their appeals will not fall on deaf ears. She said: “We are absolutely committed to reform of housing benefit. What we want is for people to engage in constructive dialogue. We are happy to look at options with regard to certain areas of London to make sure that no one is unfairly targeted. We understand all the human consequences of these policies.”