Claimants influx is discussed at meeting in London

THE issue of a possible influx of claimants descending on Hastings due to government changes to housing benefit was discussed at a recent meeting.

Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, chaired the Welfare Reform and Seaside Towns discussion last week in London, which MPs and senior civil servants attended.

In July the Observer reported claims that St Leonards could see an influx of homeless people from Croydon because the council there was struggling to find affordable properties.

According to a report in the Evening Standard, at the time Yorkshire, Hull and St Leonards were ‘under consideration’ for temporary relocation of the homeless from Croydon.

Croydon Council denied a list of possible locations had been drawn up but Cllr Birch said if St Leonards was one of the locations it would place a strain on social services and education locally.

Last week’s round-table discussion highlighted the growing concern that the implications of the Government’s welfare reforms would lead to a new and increased influx of vulnerable people into seaside towns like Hastings.

Cllr Birch said: “The Government has commissioned consultants to examine the impact of these reforms and this work will report in stages over the next two years.

“We need to know what the implications are for seaside towns with the Government’s plans for changes to the welfare and benefits system and how these changes will impact on communities and individuals living in places such as Hastings, Margate, Scarborough or Morecambe, many of which are already facing significant housing challenges.

“We already know that changes to housing benefit are putting pressure on London authorities to find cheaper accommodation to meet housing need. If we wait to see what comes out of the government research, the damage could be already done.

“We need to start the debate now, and develop practical interventions and, where appropriate, persuade ministers to reconsider legislation.”

The Government is proposing to cap housing benefit at £500 per week for couples with or without children and £350 per week for single people.