22 June 2011 3:28 PM

Child "exodus" from central London

Few people argue against the aims of the Government's cap on housing benefit which is to save millions and stop people claiming up to thousands of pounds a week for properties which most working families cannot even dream of living in.

But the impact of the new limits on housing benefit has been laid bare in a report by Westminster City Council.

The stark scenario revealed shows that one in six primary school age children in the borough may have to move home and in many cases go to a new school.

In Maida Vale it is an astonishing 43 per cent who could be affected in this way.

Across central London, thousands of school children may have to move.

The caps of £400-a-week for a four-bedroom home, £340 for a three-bedroom home, £290 for a two-bedroom home and £250 for a one-bedroom home are due to come into force for existing claimants next January.

But Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes is due to meet with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith next week to demand changes to the policy.

It is only certain parts of London which are particularly hard hit by the caps and Mr Hughes, who backs the policy in principle, wants ministers to lessen the blow for many of the households affected.

“It is crucial that the Government uses this time to think of a solution now that more and more evidence is emerging of the severe consequences the benefits caps will have on London and Londoners,” he told The Standard.

The Work and Pensions Department stresses that the bill for housing benefit has spiralled out of control and that central London is getting a large share of a special fund to help those most affected by the changes.

But London Mayor Boris Johnson has warned that he will not allow the welfare reforms to lead to "Kosovo-style social cleansing" in the capital. He is said to be in continuing talks with the Government to ensure the housing cap policy is introduced "humanely". One to watch.

Nicholas Cecil





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Mark Clayton

I think the free market has to be kept going here. Yes, a socially diverse London, as Boris Johnson wants, can be interesting, but it can also prevent potentially safe areas from being safe. I launched an Inspirative on Neomma to Boris Johnson regarding this matter. Hopefully, he will respond.

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