The BBC reports that Labour-run Newham Council has asked a Stoke-on-Trent housing association to take on up to 500 families on housing benefit. They say that the Housing Benefit cap means that they have difficulty trying to accommodate those homeless families on the waiting list within the borough. They say the Olympics has pushed up rents so they have been "forced to look further afield for alternative supply." The cap on housing benefit payments at £400 per week for a four-bedroom home was "exacerbating the problem" says the council.
Labour MP Karen Buck says that this plan to relocate families "is not Newham Council's fault."
In fact it is part of an entirely deliberate and well established strategy by Sir Robin Wales, Labour's directly elected Mayor of Newham. Mostly municipal socialists like to maximise the number of their residents that are council tenants. Partly this is ideological – a desire to preach that egalitarian paradise where we are all tenants of the state livings in uniform, centrally planned "housing units." Partly this is motivated by gerrymandering in the spirit of Herbert Morrison when at the London County Council allegedly saying "We will build the Tories out of London."
Sir Robin is different. I went to a conference three and a half years when he said:
"The Mayor of London has given us a target for more social housing in Newham. But I don't want to import poverty into Newham."
He prefers to export it to Stoke. Newham has also changed their housing allocation policy to reward work. of course if those in priority housing need can be moved elsewhere then this policy (backed by Ed Miliband but not Karen Buck) will have more impact.
London is an expensive place to live. There are doubtless plenty of hard working people who would like to live here but can't afford to. Should they really be expected to pay the rent of £30,000 a year so that families on welfare can? In fact the argument is theoretical. There are plenty of places in London where the rent for a family home is below £400 a week. If Newham really has no choice then why haven't other councils in London been writing to housing association in Stoke? Why hasn't mine given that rents are higher in Hammersmith and Fulham than Newham?
Sir Robin is right to want to reduce welfare dependency. But where he is still thinking like a socialist is they way he is going about. He is ignoring the interests of the individual and putting ideology before people. The way to reduce dependency is not to drive people out but to give those people opportunity. It means, for instance, promoting the right to buy and offering an environment where free enterprise can flourish.