Housing benefits to private landlords in East of England cost government over £492 million a year

A change of policy to shift away from housing benefits to direct provision of council housing is long overdue. It will save money in the long run too, says GMB London

In February 2019 there were 73,048 recipients of housing benefits in the East of England. This is 20.51% of all private rented households in the East of England. With the average recipient receiving around £130 per week, this means housing benefits in the East of England are costing the government £492.2 million every year.

The area in the East of England which is home to the most housing benefit recipients in the private rented sector is Tendring which has 5,717. This is 56.81% of all privately rented households in the area. Each recipient in Tendring receives an estimated £5,977.92 a year in housing benefits, meaning the estimated spend on housing benefits per year in Tendring is £34.2 million.

Next in the list is Luton which has 5,399 housing benefit recipients in the private rented sector, who receive a total of £38.2 million a year; followed by Southend-on-Sea which has 5,206 recipients costing a total of £37.2 million a year; East Suffolk has a total of 3,498 recipients, costing a total of £17.5 million a year; Peterborough has 2,588 recipients costing a total of £13.6 million a year; and Colchester has 2,527 recipients of housing benefits costing £15.5 million a year.

The figures covering 45 areas in the East of England are set out in the table below, ranked by the highest number of housing benefit recipients in the private rented sector taken from February 2019. This is from a new study by GMB London Region of official data for 45 areas in the East of England. It compares the number of privately rented households per area, the number of those receiving housing benefits, the average a household receives in housing benefits per week and per year, and the annual cost of housing benefits for the area.

Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary said: “Housing benefit was introduced by the Tories in the 1980s as an alternative to providing genuinely affordable council housing for lower paid households. There was a prejudice against councils providing housing at genuinely affordable rents for lower paid households.

“Housing benefits has proved to be an incredibly expensive alternative to the direct provision of council housing for lower paid households.

“Any rational approach to policy would seek to reverse this way of paying to house lower paid households. It is high time that this be widely recognised and that national and local government end the prejudice against council housing.

“A change of policy to shift away from housing benefits to direct provision of council housing is long overdue. It will save money in the long run too.

“It is 100 years ago that national government made grants available for local government to build huge council estates right across the country. This spirit needs to be found again for a crash programme for new council homes.

“At the same time there has to be an end to the urge to demolish existing council estates and replace them with up market private homes.”