Op-Ed: Cuts could cause mass homelessness in London

Posted Nov 11, 2011 by Alexander Baron
The ongoing cuts the British Government are pursuing in its efforts to “pay down the deficit” will lead to extreme hardship or worse for poor families in London. Who says so? London councils, that's who.
Occupy London taking place at Finsbury Square
Occupy London taking place at Finsbury Square
Beth PH
A recent report claims the “benefit cap” being placed on couples and single parent households - of £500 per week - will affect 133,000 households in London alone. Although £500 per week sounds more than reasonable, it doesn't tell the whole story, in fact it is positively misleading. In spite of some council and considerable social housing in London - such as that provided by Hyde - there is a dearth of affordable long term accommodation for ordinary people, be they working class, temporarily or long term unemployed, disabled or elderly.
In line with economic theory - about which most politicians and even economists seem to understand so little - this dearth has led to increased rent prices. London has never been a cheap place to live, certainly not for most people under a certain age. As councils have a duty to house people, especially families, this has led to profiteering by some landlords, after all, if the council is picking up the tab, why should the tenant care how much he pays?
Some people have also worked the system, and councils have at times been guilty of the most terrible folly. One of the most infamous examples came to light last year when a family of Somali “asylum seekers” who decided they would be better off living in racist Britain ended up claiming and receiving a staggering £2000 a week to cover their accommodation. Obviously it would have been cheaper for the council to have bought a house and allowed Mr Nur, his wife and seven offspring to live there rent free.
Whether or not the Nurs were milking the system, it should be patently obvious to anyone that an unskilled man with eight dependents could not earn a living wage in modern Britain.
It is a fact though that hard cases make bad law, and because of a small number of people who - perhaps through no fault of their own - are an enormous burden on the state and/or local authority, the government is pushing through with proposals that will cause untold hardship to many unless someone in Whitehall rethinks and quick.
We really can't expect our multi-millionaire Prime Minister to show either much empathy or nous for this situation, not considering his track record, the only saving grace is that the new rules will not come into force until 2013.