Benefits families moved to Black Country by cash-strapped London councils

Dozens of families on benefits have been re-located by London councils to the Black Country because they cannot afford to stay in the capital.

Benefits families moved to Black Country by cash-strapped London councils

The authorities are housing people with private landlords in Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Walsall and blaming the introduction of the £26,000 a year benefits cap.

But council leaders in the West Midlands are concerned it is putting pressure on scarce resources and housing here and claim it vindicated their attempt to stop 'benefits tourism' despite it being thrown out by the courts.

Two councils in London that responded to the Express & Star's inquiries revealed they had sent 39 families to the West Midlands between them over the past year.

Newham Council alone sent 25. Thirteen of those went to Sandwell, nine to Walsall and three to Wolverhampton.

Brent Council did not break down its figures but said it had relocated 14 households since April 2014.

Wandsworth Council has also been writing to residents offering to pay them up to £7,000 to move to Birmingham if it frees up homes for other families. It offers payments starting at £3,500 to vacate two bedroom properties up to £5,000 for a four or five-bedroom home, topped up with £2,000 to cover deposit and moving costs.

Brent Council said it had around 4,500 families on the housing waiting list.

Sandwell Council was criticised by a judge last year after it tried to introduce a residency test that said people had to have lived in the borough for at least two years to be eligible for support with council tax. It came after other councils withdrew the support in the wake of cuts to council tax benefit.

Council leader Darren Cooper said: "Justice Hickinbottom said there was no evidence of benefit tourism but there is. Our duty is first and foremost to the people of Sandwell."

West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson added: "This is driving out people who do not want to leave their homes to move to areas they did not want to live in."

Councillor Margaret McLennan, lead member for regeneration and housing at Brent Council said: "Our main priority is to secure suitable accommodation for those who need it and to provide all the support we can.

"Unfortunately, the impact of the government's benefit caps and an extremely overheated London housing market means that accommodation cannot always be provided in Brent."

In a statement Newham Council said: "Because of increased pressure and lack of suitable accommodation, we sometimes have to make offers of accommodation outside Newham, in areas where rents are affordable and there is an available supply of properties. When making offers of accommodation outside the borough, we look at what support networks may be available. We also take into account medical circumstances and impact on the education of any children."

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