Poor London families 'could be be moved to Birmingham'

Feb 7, 2013

Boris Johnson promised there would be no 'exodus' of London's poor – but Camden is considering just that

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ONE OF inner London's richest boroughs, Camden, is considering the idea of placing poorer families in cities as far away as Birmingham and Leicester where housing would be cheaper and jobs less scarce, according to a report in today's Camden New Journal.

It is not yet official policy. But the paper claims that the radical idea has been discussed privately by leaders of the Labour-run council and that officials could be asked to start researching which areas of which cities might be suitable.

Midlands cities are the most obvious destination because the mainline stations serving them - King's Cross and Euston - are within the borough.

One Labour councillor is quoted by the paper as saying: "Nobody wants to do this, but what can we do? What can we do?" Labour leader Sarah Hayward promised only that no "vulnerable" people would be moved.

At issue are the futures of an estimated 750 families said to be "badly exposed" by the housing benefit caps ordered by the coalition government as part of its welfare cuts.

Camden is the third most expensive borough for housing in London – after Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. In some regards, it is considered a textbook example of a mixed London community, where rich and poor can be found living within the same postcode.

But private rents are high and while they might be affordable for some young professionals they are beyond the reach of low-income families who are not in social housing.

The idea of moving such families outside London has been welcomed by the leader of the minority Conservative group on Camden Council, Andrew Mennear. He told the New Journal: "London isn't everything. There is a life outside of London."

There's no word yet from the London mayor's office. When the coalition first proposed a housing cap in 2010 as part of its austerity measures, Boris Johnson said: "We will not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living and have put down roots."

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