Havering’s housing benefit bill forecast to hit �90m this year

�Havering’s housing benefit bill is expected to go up by �7million this year, despite government attempts to cap the payments.

The council expects to pay �90m in housing benefit in 2012-13, compared with �83m in 2011-12.

The Recorder can also reveal that a single parent living in a five-bedroom property with three children is currently receiving �426.92 a week.

Top recipients

Meanwhile, another single parent living in a six-bedroom property with seven children receives �415.38.

Both of the top recipients will have their benefit capped at �300 a week later this year.

Last August, the council expected to pay �79m in housing benefit by the end of the 2011-12 financial year, but this had shot up to �83m by April 2012.

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There are 7,177 people receiving the benefit in Havering, up from 6,563 in April 2011. In April 2008, just before the economy ran into trouble, only 4,347 people in the borough claimed it.

Havering Council’s leader, Cllr Michael White, said: “Since the economic downturn began, Havering residents have been affected alongside people across the country, which has led to an increase in the number of private tenants needing our support.

“Our housing benefit bill has continued to rise simply due to the fact that the number of people in need goes up every year.”

Cllr White added: “The government’s cap which came into effect last April has not made a difference in Havering because the majority of rents are already below the cap.”

Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is unfair to ask ordinary taxpayers to pay for homes for others that they cannot dream of affording for themselves.

“Many middle or low income families have to decide where they can live based on what they can afford, so it is not unreasonable to ask those on benefits to make the same choice.”

But Kay Boycott, head of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter, said the rise in cases showed that the government should fund the building of new homes to make them affordable.

She said: “Now is the time for a holistic, long-term approach which sees housing benefit and house building as means to the same end –ensuring that ordinary families can meet their housing costs.”

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