Social housing residency test introduced by David Cameron

Council housing in  London The Conservatives want councils to set stricter criteria

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Immigrant families will be kept off council house waiting lists in England for at least two years, under plans set to be announced by the prime minister.

Downing Street said David Cameron would say on Monday that councils would have to introduce a residency test to stop immigrants gaining immediate access.

Local authorities can already set their own criteria, but many do not.

The Local Government Association said it was "very concerned", and councils should decide how to meet housing need.

Both Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg have recently given speeches on immigration.

And a poll conducted in Eastleigh on the day of the by-election on 28 February suggested 55% of people who voted for UKIP - which came second - said the issue was their biggest reason for supporting the party.

Migrant 'expectations'

The government says about 9% of new social lettings go to foreign nationals, a rise from 6.5% in 2007/08. According to official figures, foreign nationals make up 12% of the population.

Mr Cameron will say that the government will issue statutory guidance to local authorities.

He wants to remove "any expectation that new migrants can expect the British taxpayer to give them a home on arrival".

Boris Johnson told the Andrew Marr show he was in favour of "talented" immigration

A social housing applicant would have to live in an area for between two and five years before going on the waiting list.

He is expected to say that "this will stop someone from turning up and immediately gaining access to social housing".

Exceptions will be in place for British residents who have to move for genuine reasons, such as work or because of a family breakdown.

Speaking on Sky News, immigration minister Mark Harper said: "That's one of the issues that really upsets people when they see somebody arrive in the country and they appear to get better treatment than people that have been there for a long time."

He said the government was also looking at immigrants' access to benefits, healthcare and education as well as housing.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "If you want a stronger economy, then we need a society that can welcome immigrants to make an economic contribution to our country, that's what I want to see.

Start Quote

I think it's down to local councils to pick and choose how they can actually deliver the housing need ”

End Quote Mike Jones Housing spokesman, Local Government Association

"But we also need to have rules in our immigration system that are seen to be fair, that British people can have confidence in and that's the balance that we're trying to achieve."

The Local Government Association's Mike Jones said immigration and lack of housing were separate issues and that, while there were things the government could do to help, this proposal was "a bit of a sideshow".

"If they are in the country legally then we have a responsibility to do things that are right for people and that's housing," he told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

"Now if we don't house them that means that we are going to have to deal with them under the homeless laws which cost us a great deal more money. So I think it's down to local councils to pick and choose how they can actually deliver the housing need within their areas."

'Wholly disproportionate'

Mr Cameron's speech on immigration comes days after his deputy prime minister, Mr Clegg, made his biggest intervention to date in the debate, and at a time when concerns have been raised about the potential influx of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania when movement restrictions are loosened at the end of the year.

Mr Clegg called for cash deposits of more than £1,000 for some migrants from "high risk" countries, to be taken with their visa applications and repaid when they leave the UK.

Politicians' response to immigration has been described as "wholly disproportionate" by the Bishop of Dudley, the Right Reverend David Walker, speaking to the Observer.

"Public fears around immigration are like fears around crime. They bear little relationship to the actual reality," said the bishop, who spent 20 years on the boards of housing associations.

"The true threats to our national wellbeing lie not with those who come to visit or make their lives here but with the increasing gap between the rich and poor among us."

Speaking later on Radio 4's Sunday programme, he added: "The reason why people are not getting council housing or housing association properties is not to do with people coming from overseas, it's because governments have failed to build enough social homes and private builders, frankly, at the moment are sitting on land - they're not prepared to build them because it looks better on their balance books undeveloped."

London Mayor Boris Johnson said the capital and the UK "benefit hugely" from attracting talented people from around the world, but it was important to "strike a balance".

"If it is going to make the difference and help us to stop people coming here who want to leech off the system, to put it in crude terms, without damaging our openness to talent then I completely support it," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Labour leader Ed Miliband recently admitted the last Labour government did not do enough for ordinary people, becoming distant on issues such as immigration.

"But high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain - and too often those in power seemed not to accept this," he said in January.

"The fact that they didn't explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Sad to see so many people falling for the divide and conquer style adopted by the Government. Not aware that the "immigrants" were to blame for the state of the country, nor was it the poor. Also puzzled why Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail readers post comments on the BBC website? Shouldn't you be posting your racism and xenophobia on your own sites?

  • Comment number 390.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    342. Eastern European. I lived in Bulgaria for over 3 years. The benefits system is virtually non-existent matey. Thats why people were paying £3K to firms to come to the UK on visit visas and then change to be self employed builders etc and are now on benefits. If you dont like it, the deserted flats of Plovidiv would welcome you back to rebuild the infractructure there...

  • Comment number 388.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    If the Bishop thinks that the British taxpayer should pay for foreign nationals to be housed, he perhaps has not heard the our government is broke .His church on the other hand is not, perhaps he would recommend that the church should fund social housing ,what else do they do with their money in the U K.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    When allowing in asylum seekers we should be asking if the person is in danger in their own country because they are criminals there. And we should all be asking what would happen if we were being treated unfairly in the UK ... who will give us asylum? I think the answer is probably no-one. It is my feeling that immigration for asylum is being misused. Time to vote UKIP and change it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    @78 - Just a thought - if all countries adopted your suggestion that immigrants should speak the language, we could expect hundreds of thousands of returnees from Spain, Portugal, France, etc. etc.
    Where would we house them??

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Too late if you think about the number of immigrants accepted into GB by BOTH parties!
    Perhaps if all immigrants actually accepted British Culture as normal, people would not be so hostile?
    (Learning the language for instance).
    In USA there is no problem with this, as immigrants normally accept US Culture whilst retaining their home culture, BUT the US culture has to come first!
    If GB did this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    @Nelly 363 - a massive generalization. I learned the language of my host country AND took exams in it. My partner and I are the "only Brits in the village" and, apart from Marmite, I eat like a local and do not go to expat shops because I cannot live without British commodities.
    Having said that, it was my choice to integrate and I was not forced.
    The adage "Birds of a feather..."comes to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    The Queen is of a German family and Prince Phillip is Greek ie both are from the E.U. They pay no tax and live in social housing. Actually several of them and quite expensive ones. I suggest Cameron and UKIP to ask them for their proof of residence and work permit next time the Queen or the Prince checks in a local NHS hospital.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    The Bishop of Dudley clearly doesn't get out enough. He's totally out of touch with the reality of the situation across the country. What is "disproportionate" is the level of immigration. This has nothing to do with race, it is a question of supportable numbers, limited space, limited housing and very limited national resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    For god's sake Walker-what nonsense. Immigration simply makes it easy for all Govs to ignore the more or less permanent part of the population who are failed and deserted by our education & training system, & who never get a proper opportunity to 'enrich' our economic & cultural life. All because its easier to import overseas people! And I for one do not want some aspects of 'imported' cultures

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Perhaps the Bishop would like to contribute the vast amounts of wealth the church has hoarded to pay for social housing, melt down the fancy gold candlesticks, sell some of the real estate that they hold and relinquish the tax breaks they get. Dont hold your breath, and you wonder why the Church is so out of touch on many issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    It's a great idea, completely behind it, hope it happens & soon. Most, not all Asylum seekers are different but all immigrants should show proof that they are able to pay their way & pay for accomodation etc before being allowed to enter the country. Australia, Canada New Zealand, the USA & I'm sure other countries don't allow people in who are unable to support themselves, so why should we.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    You don't need to go abroad to experience how poorly the English integrate. Just come to Wales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    I see the racists are out in force AGAIN!

    It's ok for brits to become ex pats, 2nd homes overseas, cause genocide in what became Australia, New Zealand and the USA during "empire" BUT should someone want to come here oh no no no.
    Based on the postings on these subjects Britain is a greedy inhumane part of the world and totally Xenophobic!
    You shame us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Close the door now and let's sort out our own mess - Left by Labour - Then accept people who will accept paying and integrate into our society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    He split the Nation. Divided the working poor against the unemployed against the disabled against the pensioners. Now he is thrashing Europe and foreigners. Has this man no integrity?
    He has given himself and his pals a £50,000 tax break for every million they will earn.
    No splits there, Just CLARITY on who he thinks matters in this declining country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    332. Agreed, its pure bigotry and worse in this country and the crocodile tears for those on housing waiting lists and the unemployed does not wash. We can build enough houses we did after the War when there was a housing shortage, we just preffer class hatred and war being launched by the rightwing british media who along with the finance barons are the real cause of our shortages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Oh here we go, another headline grabber to catch the eye of the Troglodyte floating Tory/UKIP voter.


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