‘Benefits Street? Absolutely not’ Loxford councillor reacts to Redbridge benefits figures
- Credit: Archant
“Benefits Street? No, absolutely not - it is a different demographic,” said Councillor Filly Maravala.
“Benefits Street? No, absolutely not – it is a different demographic,” said Cllr Filly Maravala.
Few will not have heard of the controversial Channel 4 programme Benefits Street, screened each Monday, which highlights a Birmingham street that is one of Britain’s most social security- dependent.
According to new figures, obtained from Redbridge Council by the Recorder, Cllr Maravala’s Loxford ward has the highest number of claimants of housing benefit and council tax reduction in Redbridge.
But he is adamant that Loxford is nothing like James Turner Street, which has come under the gaze of the TV cameras.
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“For years, Loxford has been the most deprived ward in Redbridge,” said Cllr Maravala. “Why should I be surprised about the figures?
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“Unemployment has been a critical factor. As for what I can do, I cannot do a lot because it is central government driven.”
The figures show Loxford currently has 1,893 housing benefit claimants and 1,938 residents claiming council tax reduction.
Hainault has the second-highest number of residents in both categories, with 1,462 housing benefit claimants and 1,602 residents claiming council tax reduction.
Cllr Maravala, leader of the Redbridge Independent Group, pointed out that the number of people living in Loxford should be taken into account when assessing the figures.
The Greater London Authority has projected that in 2015 the ward will have 18,328 residents, giving it the second-highest population of all the wards in the borough.
He said: “A like-for-like comparison needs to be taken into account – if our population had fallen below 15,000, then we would not be top of the pile.
“Benefits Street had more of a white population, Loxford is the opposite,” added Cllr Maravala. “The majority are from an ethnic background. The similarity is that both have been benefits claimants – that is the common denominator.”
He also hoped that, with UK unemployment at its lowest since 2009, Loxford residents would “see the benefits of full-time employment”.
He asked: “Why should I have sympathy for these figures when there is no job provision and fares are well above inflation? How are people supposed to be making ends meet?
“It is an absolute poverty trap. If a resident gets a job the other side of Heathrow Airport, it will cost them £2,000, £3,000 [a year] in fares alone.
“People might start to perceive benefits are better than having a job if they cannot provide for their families.”
Cllr Keith Prince, the council leader, said: “These figures are about housing benefit, whether they are in work or not, so you cannot really compare these wards with Benefits Street – not that I have seen the programme.
“Hainault and Loxford both have our highest concentration of council housing in the borough. We do have a lot of outreach sessions in those wards trying to get people into work.”