Tower Hamlets plans to ship 500 families out of London
Plans by Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman to move 500 families out of London have been labelled a "tragedy" by opposition politicians.
The council admitted the scale of the borough's housing crisis in a Freedom of Information request made by the Labour Party.
In its response, the council revealed 400 households are currently living outside of borough, including areas beyond the capital, such as Hemel Hempstead, Dartford and Gravesend.
Now it's looking at more sites outside London and expects to place 500 households there during the 2013/14 municipal year, which began in May.
Labour's candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, who is currently a London Assembly member, said: "There is a personal tragedy behind each of these stories and the local political leadership needs to focus its efforts on a comprehensive strategy to minimise the impact of Government policy, on lobbying against its impact and on maximising the wider understanding of what is happening.
"At present none of these things are happening. It is a failure of leadership."
Labour's deputy housing spokesperson, Cllr John Pierce, said: "The devastating cuts being made by the Government are pushing more and more people out of their homes.
"The Council should obviously do everything it can to help people who have been made homeless but we cannot escape the challenge this presents with the Council facing even deeper budget cuts and an acute housing shortage."
UPDATE: Tower Hamlets Council released a statement from Councillor Rabina Khan, Cabinet Member for Housing, on Friday afternoon.
It said: "There is absolutely no plan to send families out of London. This government's changes to welfare have created a huge challenge. The Mayor and I have been clear that keeping people housed in the borough is our number one priority. We identified this issue early on which is why, the Mayor has dedicated £2.2 million in a Temporary Housing Fund, to specifically tackle this issue. We are the only council in the country to have this fund. We have also built more affordable housing than any other London borough and have developed an effective campaign to raise residents' awareness of the impact of welfare reform. Our officers have worked with all public sector housing providers, and there have been no evictions from public housing in the borough due to benefit changes.
"However, the government's changes, as well as the wider London housing crisis has reduced the amount of private sector housing available to households on housing benefit. We are seeing private sector landlords evicting our families and replacing them with private renters. We are doing all we can to maintain our stock of private accommodation locally but there is no legislation we can use to force the private sector to keep housing our families. Where we cannot find locally suitable accommodation, we have been forced to find accommodation in other parts of London for our families, however so far only 12 families have been housed outside of London.
"Many London councils - backed by housing experts - have warned that this would be the impact of welfare reform but the government failed to listen. It is devastating that our residents are facing the impact of the government's policies, and I would urge all stakeholders to work together jointly to lobby the government, as the Mayor and I have been doing."