GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS THREATEN 800 CAMBRIDGE RESIDENTS WITH EVICTION - HOWARTH

April 24, 2008 12:00 AM

Cambridge MP David Howarth has raised in Parliament the plight of 800 Cambridge private rented sector tenants who are threatened with eviction because of changes in housing benefit regulations pushed through by the Labour government.

Under the new scheme, the government is comparing rents in Cambridge with places as far away as Littleport and telling Cambridge tenants that their benefit will be cut to levels appropriate to much cheaper areas.

Mr Howarth said:

"In effect, the Labour government is telling people on lower incomes that they are not entitled to live in Cambridge. I am appalled."

Officials in his department have told Cambridge City Council that the government thinks it is reasonable to make people move one and half hours' journey time away from Cambridge to find accommodation they would be able to afford on their reduced benefits. Mr Howarth has asked Mr Purnell whether he agrees with that ruling.

"One and half hours would mean moving to Lincolnshire. That is ridiculous. Why should people be forced to disrupt their family life, including their children's schooling, in this way? It is cruel."

Mr Howarth has also asked Mr Purnell to publish the rules the government is using to decide how big an area to count in calculating average rents. The government has so far operated the system in secret.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1) The first question reads as follows: "To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what guidance (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have issued on the maximum distance a tenant in receipt of housing benefit in the private rented sector may be required to move as a result of the introduction of local housing allowance and the use of broad rental market areas as a basis for calculating allowance levels."

2) The second question reads as follows: "To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will publish the methodology adopted by the Rent Service in determining broad rental market areas."

3) The third question reads as follows: "To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what guidance he has given to the Rent Service on determining the extent of broad rental market areas for the purposes of local housing allowance."

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