Communities and Local Government CommitteeSupplementary written submission from the London Borough of Camden

Thank you for inviting me to give oral evidence to the committee on behalf of the London Borough of Camden on 7 January 2013.

As I set out in my evidence, the council is deeply concerned about the scale and speed of implementation of the welfare benefit changes and their individual and cumulative impact on the most vulnerable residents in Camden. As the Council we are doing everything within our power to provide advice and support to people which, as well as encouraging and working with them to find employment, means finding alternative suitable and cheaper accommodation where appropriate.

I explained to the Committee that one of our main concerns is the different advice being given by the Department for Work and Pensions from that of Communities and Local Government and I would like to take the opportunity to emphasise this point.

As was set out to the committee, there is less and less affordable privately rented accommodation in London for people on benefits and a limited supply of social housing. In advance of the introduction of the Total Benefit Cap, we are working with people to identify cheaper accommodation and this is increasingly not in Camden or indeed in central London. We also need to think very carefully about where we place families we have accepted as statutorily homeless to avoid putting them into accommodation where the rent will not be covered by Housing Benefit.

The advice from CLG is that people should be housed within the borough to discharge our statutory duty whilst DWP is clearly saying that people need to move to areas of the country where they can afford the rent. These conflicting policy lines are putting all London Councils in the very difficult position of either placing people outside the borough where rents are lower and facing a judicial review of those decisions or keeping people in the borough and accepting that they will not be able to pay their rent. In both cases, the tax payers in the borough will be picking up the financial cost.

I would ask that you and the panel give this matter urgent attention and would be grateful for any pressure you could bring on the two sets of Ministers and officials to reach an agreed position.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this.

January 2013

Prepared 28th March 2013