Brent Council accused of ‘dumping’ poor families in the West Midlands

Steve Eling is the deputy leader of Sandwell Council

Steve Eling is the deputy leader of Sandwell Council - Credit: Archant

A local authority in the West Midlands has accused Brent of contributing to a £1.6m shortfall in their council tax benefits budget by “dumping” poor families into their area.

Sandwell Council claims it has been burdened by an influx of vulnerable households eligible for the council tax discount transferred from Brent and other London boroughs.

In August, the High Court banned Sandwell’s policy of withholding council tax benefits to residents who have lived in the area for less than two years.

According to the local authority, that verdict left them with a five-figure deficit to cover the cost of the benefit scheme.

The sum is predicted to grow as Brent Council have told Sandwell they will continue to house homeless families in their area.

Sandwell is now consulting its residents on whether to make cuts to the public services or to force an estimated 7,000 residents eligible for the benefit scheme to pay up to £120 a year towards their council tax to cover the shortfall.

Cllr Steve Eling, deputy leader of Sandwell, said: “…a London borough [Newham] has placed a family here and another [Brent] has confirmed it will be dumping poor families in Sandwell, apparently taking advantage of cheaper rent here.”

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“This will create an added burden on Sandwell Council taxpayers who will now have to pick up 100 per cent of the bill for these extra families who can’t afford to pay council tax.”

The number of homeless families from Brent with school-age children who have been moved out of London has surged by 4,800 per cent in the last four years according to a report by the Green Party.

In March last year, the government abolished the benefit scheme and replaced it by putting the control in the hands of local authorities.

Brent were among many boroughs to implement the full council tax charge to residents on low wages who previously qualified for the entitlement. Pensioners are exempt from the change.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader Brent Council, claims it has been forced to send families to places out of the capital following the introduction a cap on housing benefits, combined with soaring rents throughout the borough, and London as a whole.

Commenting on the transfer of residents to Sandwell, he said: “We hope the number of families involved will be small and we will do everything possible to support a smooth transition for those residents who do move.

Isabel Counihan, of Brent Housing Action, who was evicted from her home in Kilburn in 2012 and placed in temporary accommodation in Ealing, with her large family said: “To them [Brent Council] it’s all about money and they seem to forget the impacts of uprooting a vulnerable family.”