Thursday, 28 October 2010

David Cameron slaps down Boris Johnson's 'Kosovo' attack on policy | News

David Cameron slaps down Boris Johnson's 'Kosovo' attack on policy

Pippa Crerar, City Hall Editor Pippa Crerar, City Hall Editor

David Cameron slapped down Boris Johnson today after he suggested the Government's housing benefit reforms could result in the "Kosovo-style social cleansing" of London families.

The Prime Minister's spokeswoman said he "absolutely did not agree" with the Mayor's warnings.

Just a day after Mr Cameron told the Commons he was sticking to his plan to cap payments from next April, Mr Johnson pledged to "emphatically resist" the proposal that could lead to 82,000 households in the capital being evicted. He insisted: "This will not happen on my watch."

But Number 10 poured cold water on his warnings and denied the Prime Minister was backing down.

A source said: "He absolutely does not agree with what Boris has said, nor with the way he has said it. The idea that somehow we are rowing back or changing the policy or going wobbly is not true."

However, Mr Johnson confirmed he was discussing with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith how to mitigate the impact on London.

As The Standard revealed earlier this month, they are working on a plan to help those hit disproportionately hard because of high rents in the capital.

Earlier, Mr Johnson said: "We will not accept a kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have put down roots."

He told BBC London radio: "It would be completely wrong if you saw big migrations from the centre of the city out to the outer boroughs." Mr Johnson's words were emotive - about a million ethnic Albanians were driven from Kosovo in the Nineties and thousands were killed.

The Lib-Dems have already attacked the changes, aimed at saving £500 million, and housing organisations have warned they could lead to an "explosion of homelessness". Fears intensified after it emerged local councils were already making B&B reservations in towns across the South-East for families facing eviction from London.

The Mayor's plan includes exempting tenants with a good reason to stay in their area - such as having children at local schools. Others could qualify for cash from an enlarged £30 million government hardship fund to help them move to a cheaper property. In some cases the money could be used to bridge the gap between the benefit cap and private rent in the capital.

Mr Johnson has also proposed paying housing benefit directly to private landlords to cushion them against tenants falling into arrears. In return they would have to reduce their rent below the cap of up to £250 a week for a two-bedroom property and up to £400 a week for a four-bedroom home.

He said: "The last thing we want is for our city to be like Paris, where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs. I will emphatically resist any attempt to create a London in which the rich and poor can't live together."

Reader views (9)

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"..... can be given accommodation in the North of the country." (Jimbob, Kensington).

Does that mean the North-East, North-West, further North into Scotland or just anywhere North of Birmingham?

Who will arrange this giving of accommodation? Who will organise the transport? It sounds like a job for military logistics to me. Perhaps it's what Jimbob envisages.

But hey, don't forget the West. You can see where I live, and as IDS has already made abundantly clear with his pearls of wisdom, the depressed Valleys of South Wales are in an area ripe for housing benefit recipients to come and learn how to be model citizens.

North or West, on the spot supervision will be needed from experts, so presumably Jimbob will make the move too!

- Mike, Cardiff UK, 28/10/2010 13:24
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In response to Jimbob from Kensington ; What makes you think the people in the North want your people and we have a housing shortage of affordable property anyway. This government look at the big picture for the rich and not at people who work for a living. In the North we have limited jobs, and the employers are taking full advantage of people desperate for work. do the people of London have to suffer, the answer is no, just shove your poor to the North and let them eat cake ! I think not !

- Don Atkinson, Oldham - UK, 28/10/2010 13:23
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their, should read THEY'RE (they are someone's one time home ..... Bad habit of not checking before posting.

- M, London, 28/10/2010 13:19
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Sure there are properties out there for £250 a week, but no doubt these will be from buy to rent landlords mainly? and obviously not central, but still good. Just think there will be a limited number of properties, but given that you can't have everything, sounds good, still. The properties in my street are not buy to let, their someone's one time home, so I imagine, whilst there are a few HB tenants around here that pay approx. 2k a month for a 2 bedroomed, that, from now on, they will no longer be accommodated for as tenants, as private tenants do easily fill the gaps for renting around here.

Think he is doing his fairest in the light of reform.

- M, London, 28/10/2010 13:13
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For once in my life I don't agree with Boris.

The people who have real fear in their hearts are landlords. Trust me, rents will come down.

I would like to know how many rented properties there are in London and how many tenants are on housing benefit.

- Stephen C, London, 28/10/2010 13:08
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Can someone please let Boris know that I will not be paying my council tax anymore if this reform is not brought in. I pay incredibly high levels of income tax and VAT - I am no longer happy for my hard earned money to pay for other peoples rent when I struggle to pay my own. People are responsible for themselves !
I am happy for my income tax to go to infrastructure and to look after the elderly and the disabled - that is where it should end.
Anybody who is able bodied should only get benefits equivalent to minimum wage, in thanks for this they should do community work - the parks need to be cleaned, odd jobs for the elderly, planting new trees etc
Enough is enough

- Katie, London, 28/10/2010 13:06
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Let's not forget that most people who claim housing benefit are actually in work. So, convenient as it may seem to sweep this tide of humanity into empty ghettoes elsewhere in the UK, these people actually have jobs to go to. (But call me Dave and friends are working on that one .....)

- sallyp, London, 28/10/2010 12:54
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Hang on! Why do these people have to be relocated to the suburbs of London?

The ones who have no ties to London, no job and no interest in a job can be given accomodation in the North of the country.

There are many places in the North which are like ghost towns after the pits and mills were closed and a whole street of terraced houses can be bought for £250K.

And for those who think this would make ghettos, I say given this kind of blank canvas it will only be as good (or bad) as the new residents want it to be.

- Jimbob, Kensington, 28/10/2010 12:42
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For once in my life I actually agree with Boris.

- Giustina, London, 28/10/2010 12:38
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