Joint letter highlights concerns over London families being placed in Essex

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

A letter signed by every Essex council leader highlighting concerns about families being re-housed from London into the county has been sent to senior politicians in the capital.

Agreed by the Essex Leaders and Chief Executives Group, the letter raises 11 issues which have been highlighted by housing officers across the county.

Issues include a lack of communication between London authorities and Essex councils informing them of people being moved into the area, families being placed in inadequate housing, and the impact on local services.

It also warns of cases where families have been moved far away from support networks such as friends, family and jobs, meaning their situation can actually worsen. 

The Essex Leaders and Chief Executives Group includes all 12 district and borough councils, Essex County Council, Southend and Thurrock unitary authorities and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.

The letter, which has been sent to the Mayor of London and the leaders and directly elected mayors of each of the London Boroughs, also details some positive steps to resolve the concerns raised and also invites politicians on both sides of the county divide to work together to lobby government on related national issues.

In Harlow there is a particular issue of the placement of families into new, often unsuitable, housing that has been converted from office space to residential accommodation under permitted development rights. These developments are mainly in industrial areas where there no services around for residents.

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “It is disgraceful that London Boroughs are using Harlow to deal with their housing shortages, especially when the town has its own shortage of housing.

“London boroughs are forcing families to move miles away from their communities, their families, and friends and where their children go to school or place of work. For Harlow it puts additional pressure on already stretched local services like social services, health services and the hospital. 

“The negative impact on families placed out of the area they live can be huge. This is particularly true for children and young people, because they are removed from familiar surroundings, extended family and friends, and their education is often interrupted and future potential impacted. 

“Whilst we may have some sympathy for other councils and the issues they face with housing shortages and the cost of housing in their respective areas, this is not the solution.

“Our residents also hear about and see these things happening and, without the full facts, understandably get frustrated that accommodation in the town is not going to those from Harlow who need it. We are not against any families wanting to move to Harlow to start a new life. People move here every day and as a new town Harlow will always have a close association with London. However, what we are against is London boroughs using Harlow to ease their own housing shortages, and in the process moving people miles away from their families and their local communities against their wishes.

“We hope that as a joint voice those in power in London will start to listen and work with us all to tackle these issues.”