RESIDENTS claiming benefits should be advised by council staff to consider leaving Brighton and Hove and moving somewhere more affordable, according to a new council report.

Council staff should have “honest and open conversations” with families reliant on benefits, warning them that they might not be able to afford big enough homes in the city and to consider moving to more affordable areas of the country.

Green councillors said the advice amounted to “social cleansing” of low-income families out of a city they had called home for generations at a council meeting last night.

Council officers have warned that ongoing welfare reform could price low-paid workers out of commuting distance from the city and harm the local economy.

Ongoing welfare changes also lead to families falling behind with rent and becoming at risk of homelessness, harming council finances in reduced rent collection and homeless costs.

On average benefit claiming families are £44 a week worse off since the 2010 reforms launched by the then coalition government with the hardest hit being the disabled, large families and residents aged under 35.

Brighton and Hove is said to be one of the places most strongly affected by ongoing welfare reform because of high concentrations of disadvantaged communities and a housing market with high prices, high private sector rents and “very strong demand” for limited council housing.

The situation is predicted to worsen as the impact of George Osborne’s welfare cuts in this summer’s budget take hold - Brighton and Hove is set to be one of the most heavily impacted by the reduction of the benefit cap from £26,000 to £20,000.

Additionally the controversial Universal Credit scheme will begin in Brighton and Hove in December with an initial rollout of between 500 and 1,000 claimants up to March next year but eventually expanded to at least 20,000 households.

Green councillor Leo Littman said: “Taking £60 million a year from the 25,000 poorest households in the city is evil and woe betide if you have the misfortune to be disabled.

“Fundamentally the report endorses officers of Brighton and Hove City Council being asked to talk to residents of Brighton and Hove, many of whom have lived in the city for generations, and say ‘I’m sorry you are now too poor to live in Brighton and Hove’.

“I find that desperately upsetting.”

Conservative councillor Nick Taylor said the reforms should not be seen as "all doom and gloom" as it had encouraged thousands of households across the country back into work.

He said the council should look to encourage more residents out of the private rented sector and into home ownership through the Government's expanded Right-To Buy scheme.

He added: "The next phase of welfare reform is going to be broadly positively for the country and for the city."


This problem of low income families being unable to afford to live in their own communities has been developing in Brighton for a long time.

The introduction of the Right To Buy scheme for council tenants by the Thatcher Government in 1980 is one of that controversial administration’s most hotly contested legacies.

Undoubtedly it led to an increase in social mobility, and many argue that the one and a half million families who have taken advantage of the scheme were given a stake in society from which they would otherwise have been excluded.

But the failure of that and each successive government to replace sold off social housing stocks, has given rise to a housing shortfall, and housing bubble, which has brought us to the situation we report today, that low income families find it unaffordable to continue to live in their own towns and communities.

In August, a national newspaper reported that in London, tens of thousands of poorer families have deserted the inner boroughs in the last five years, priced out by spiralling rents.

And now Brighton and Hove council officials are being told to advise those vulnerable people who come to them for support that perhaps Brighton and Hove is no longer the place for them.

Ali Ghanimi, of the Brighton and Hove Living rent campaign, explained that in the absence of adequate stocks of social and housing association housing, low income families spend their decreasing housing benefits in the private sector.

But as rents go up and up and benefits are reduced, the gap between landlord’s demands and tenants’ ability to pay eats into meagre funds which should be ringfenced for food, transport and childcare.

“We have so many people who are in an awful situation where they can’t afford to live here, they can’t afford to move out and because they’re scared of being evicted they can’t even afford to complain about poor accommodation,” Mr Ghanimi said.

This year’s budget will freeze most working age benefits for four years and reduce the benefits cap from £26,000 to £20,000, leading to an estimated 650 families in the city losing up to £120 per week.

Andy Winter of the Brighton Housing Trust said: “We’re here because social landlords have been allowed to move away from their historic remit of providing homes for people who can’t compete in the market.

“For example, a recent development by a so-called social landlord requires annual income of £65,000 which is far out of reach of lowest earners.

“They’ll be looking for two junior doctors living together and they’ll call it key worker accommodation, but who is going to house ordinary people and who is going to house the poor?”

He added that the situation would worsen once the forthcoming housing and planning bill passes into law, and requirement to build ‘affordable housing’ is reclassified as a requirement to build “starter homes’.

“But it’s been calculated that in the South East you would have to be earning £70,000 to qualify for a starter home,” he explained.

If low earners move, or are forced out, it will knock on to provision of services in the city and potentially ramp up the cost and difficulty of housing those made homeless.

One thing is certain. A problem 35 years in the making will not be solved overnight.