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Essex Council Leaders’ Letter Highlights Concerns Over London Homeless Being Placed In County

Published on Tuesday, 18th December 2018

A letter signed by every Essex council leader highlighting concerns about families being re-housed from London into the county has been sent to senior politicians in the capital.

Agreed by the Essex Leaders and Chief Executives Group, the letter raises 11 issues which have been highlighted by housing officers across the county.

Issues include a lack of communication between London authorities and Essex councils informing them of people being moved into the area, families being placed in inadequate housing, and the impact on local services.

It also warns of cases where families have been moved far away from support networks such as friends, family and jobs, meaning their situation can actually worsen.

The Essex Leaders and Chief Executives Group includes all 12 district and borough councils, Essex County Council, Southend and Thurrock unitary authorities and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.

The letter, which has been sent to the Mayor of London and the leaders and directly elected mayors of each of the London Boroughs, also details some positive steps to resolve the concerns raised and also invites politicians on both sides of the county divide to work together to lobby government on related national issues.

Neil Stock OBE, Leader of Tendring District Council and chairman of the Essex Leaders and Chief Executives Group, said the actions of some of the London Boroughs had been despicable.

He said: “We understand why people want to come to Essex, which is a fantastic place in which to live, work and visit, and we don’t want to stop people moving to the county.

“However, this needs to be in the right way and because people want to move here, not because they are being forced to or financially encouraged to by their London council as way of removing a problem.

“So far efforts by individual Essex councils to draw this to the attention of London Boroughs and the Mayor of London have largely been ignored, which is why as a group of leaders we have taken the decision to send this letter.

“We now hope that those in power in London sit up and take notice, and work constructively with us to resolve these issues.”

18/12/18

NEWSDESKS

For more information on this news release contact Tendring District Council’s Communications Manager Will Lodge on 01255 686338.

Notes to editors:

Please find below a quote from various council leaders which can be added depending on media’s geographical area of interest.

Cllr Andrew Baggott, Leader of Basildon Council, said: “Basildon is a great place to live, work and visit and we are certainly not saying we don’t want people to choose our borough as a place to settle down. However, this has to be done in the right way. It is not right for London Boroughs to send their tenants here without talking to us.

“This is not only detrimental to those who are being sent here but to our housing teams who are working hard to house Basildon tenants.

“Safeguarding concerns also need to be considered as the safety of our residents must always come first.”

Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “We know the impact on Essex has been significant and together we support this move to highlight issues affecting the county. We’ve only had a small number of families placed in the Braintree District by London councils officially however we do know that London councils do not always make us aware even though they have a requirement to do so.”

Councillor Roy Whitehead, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, said: “We understand that there is a strong need for those who are less fortunate to be housed, which may mean moving into the county from London. We do not want to stop people moving into the county, but people need to be housed in appropriate accommodation for their needs and we want to work together with the relevant authorities to facilitate this.”

Leader of Colchester Borough Council, Cllr Mark Cory, said: “This is an issue that urgently needs addressing. Local people are already finding it increasingly difficult to find homes at a price they can afford without additional competition from people from the capital. London boroughs are often willing to offer private landlords financial incentives way in excess of what local people can afford to pay.

 “We acknowledge the pressures London boroughs face but the solution to the issue is not to move people miles away from their family, friends, schools and support networks. When people are moved to Essex there is often a lack of communications from the London borough about their needs which places additional burdens on all of our public services.”

Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “The current situation of vulnerable families being moved to Essex is untenable. We of course recognise the difficulties all Local Authorities are facing in such a constrained financial environment, but we must work together more effectively to ensure everyone in Essex is given the opportunity to succeed and thrive with the appropriate support networks, schooling, and accommodation. This letter will help to ensure this happens and that every family in Essex will receive the support they need.”

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “It is disgraceful that London Boroughs are using Harlow to deal with their housing shortages, especially when the town has its own shortage of housing.

“The negative impact on families placed out of the area they live can be huge. This is particularly true for children and young people, because they are removed from familiar surroundings, extended family and friends, and their education is often interrupted and future potential impacted.

 “Whilst we may have some sympathy for other councils and the issues they face with housing shortages and the cost of housing in their respective areas, this is not the solution.

“Our residents also hear about and see these things happening and, without the full facts, understandably get frustrated that accommodation in the town is not going to those from Harlow who need it. We are not against any families wanting to move to Harlow to start a new life. People move here every day and as a new town Harlow will always have a close association with London. However, what we are against is London boroughs using Harlow to ease their own housing shortages, and in the process moving people miles away from their families and their local communities against their wishes.”

Cllr Adrian Fluker, Leader of Maldon District Council, said: “Unlike other Districts and Boroughs in Essex, we have not seen the pressure from the London Boroughs that others have.  However, I fully support this move to ensure that the decision makers in London take notice, and work constructively with us across the County to resolve these issues.”

Leader of Rochford District Council, Cllr Terry Cutmore, said: “It is important that we work with our partners from other Essex authorities to monitor and manage this situation. This letter reinforces our view that people should only relocate to Essex if they choose to do so, and that those at risk of homelessness should not have the additional worry of being uprooted from their family ties and support networks, employment and the schools their children attend.”

Cllr John Lamb, leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “We understand there are pressures on local authorities, especially in high cost areas and that it can make more economical sense for those families to be rehoused somewhere more affordable. However it cannot be to the detriment of those families, or the families who already live within Southend.

“London Boroughs should look after their own, rather than sending them to other boroughs who are suffering similar issues and as a county, we need to work more closely with the London Boroughs to tackle this problem. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy looks to address many housing problems in Southend-on-Sea, including this one.”

Cllr Neil Stock, Leader of Tendring District Council, said: “We have had cases in my own district of Tendring where families with young children have been placed in poor quality accommodation with no furniture, or two hours away from their job in London meaning they have to move back and sofa surf during the week just to maintain their income.