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Housing benefit changes will hit Redbridge families hard

PUBLISHED: 12:11 19 November 2011

Councillor Keith Prince, Leader of Redbridge Council

Councillor Keith Prince, Leader of Redbridge Council

Archant

Job-seeking families in Redbridge will struggle more to afford their rent than in almost any other London borough if government plans to cap benefits go ahead, a report has revealed.

If the government’s universal credit cap comes into force from 2013, 4,667 of the borough’s unemployed families – 30 per cent – would not receive enough benefit to continue renting their property.

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Keith Prince said he is determined to break the benefit-dependence trap, where unemployed households get more in benefits than some families earn in work.

He added: “It’s not right that if you get a job you’re worse off. If you earn a pound you should be able to keep a significant amount of that.”

The government proposes to pay benefits as one sum – a combination of jobseekers’ allowance, child tax credit, child benefit and council tax benefit, called universal credit.

The cap for unemployed couples and single parent households would be £500-a-week and £350 for single person households.

Overcrowd

Recently unemployed Sotiris Evangelou, 31, is married with a two-year-old son living with in-laws to save money.

He said: “We could cope on £500 a week renting a small one-bedroom flat, but would look outside the borough at cheaper two-bedroom flats because we want another child.”

A spokesman for Gants Hill estate agent Century 21 said bigger families may overcrowd illegally during hard times, as Redbridge’s stock of Victorian and Edwardian properties are expensive to rent.

Cllr Prince warned people to “not press the panic button just yet,” as it is still a proposal which he suggested, in light of Redbridge’s baby boom, may be improved if child allowance is not capped.

Labour Cllr Ross Hatfull, vice-chairman of the housing and social services scrutiny committee, said of the London Councils report: “A lot of people in Redbridge are frightened they are going to lose their jobs and, under these proposals, the existing safety net if you hit hard times will be removed.

“A £500 cap is too low considering rental costs. Families in Redbridge will be forced to move.”


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