Gooshays’ councillor defends his ward in light of Havering benefits figures
PUBLISHED: 08:01 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 08:01 24 February 2014
“Obviously, it is very fashionable these days to be on benefits,” said Councillor Pat Murray.
“We’ve got that TV programme Benefits Street. But in my ward, Gooshays, they’re in a situation where they have to be on benefits.”
Many of us have seen the controversial Channel 4 programme Benefits Street – and Cllr Murray is no exception.
However, he is adamant that Gooshays in Harold Hill, is nothing like Birmingham’s James Turner Street, which has one of Britain’s highest proportions of welfare-dependent residents.
According to new figures, obtained from Havering Council by the Recorder, Gooshays has more claimants of housing benefit and council tax reduction than any other ward in Havering.
“It does not surprise me,” said Cllr Murray, reacting to the figures. “When I look at these [figures], Gooshays is the most deprived ward.
“When the stats are released by the council, we are bottom all the time.
“We have a high proportion of children and parents, many of whom are working but on a low income.”
The figures show Gooshays has 1,941 claimants of housing benefit and 2,244 residents who claim council tax reduction.
Heaton has the second-highest number of claimants in both categories, with 1,634 on housing benefit and 1,930 residents claiming council tax reduction.
Cllr Murray was keen to point out that many Gooshays residents lived in “affluent” areas of the ward.
He said: “It is easy to jump to conclusions about these statistics. Gooshays is a deprived ward but quite a large proportion of residents live in nice properties. There are affluent areas in Gooshays.”
There was a warning, too, for anyone who was claiming benefits illegally.
“I do not support anyone who is claiming benefits that should not be – they are doing something which is against the law,” said Cllr Murray. “I do not want to put anyone in that category from Gooshays.”
He said the welfare system was there for a reason – to avoid “people ending up on the street with children in care,” adding: “People need to be aware of that.”