Poor families in inner London are likely to be forced to the outer boroughs because of changes to the welfare system. Chancellor George Osborne announced yesterday that the maximum amount any family will be able to claim in all benefits - housing benefit, working tax credit, income support - is £26k a year, working out at £500 a week.
This still sounds like a lot for our cash-strapped economy, but consider that a cleaner on minimum wage takes home around £200 a week and that median rent on a three bedroom flat in Westminster borough is £650 a week. He might have a couple of children, he might be supporting a partner taking care of a young baby. There is no way this family would be able to continue to live in central London, meaning a move out to zone 5 or 6 - leaving friends, school, support networks and increased travel costs to work.
The London Councils group estimates that 15,000 households could be forced to move. This isn't just bad for the families in question, it's bad for the community. The inner boroughs will become middle class ghettos while the outer suburbs risk ending up with all the poor, like Paris. Boris Johnson wants a government hardship fund largely ringfenced to help poor Londoners, and Ken Livingstone says he would introduce rent control and build more houses if he's elected in 2012. But with the benefits cap coming into force next April, London needs action now to help prevent a mass exodus of low earners which will be bad for everybody.