Housing Benefit Cuts

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The caps and cuts on housing benefit have polarised the nation more than any other measure in Britain's age of austerity. Public anger about people "milking the system" by using benefits to get large homes in central London is pitted against the spectre of "Kosovo-style social cleansing" of Britain's cities. In The Report, Mukul Devichand investigates how the changes will really play out in the lives of Londoners: telling stories of the city where the cut will bite first.

Around 1.5 million Britons get all or part of their rent paid by the state, costing £8bn a year. In fashionable Maida Vale and central SW1, Mukul visits the homes paid for by "Local Housing Allowance" that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds each year. He asks if the government is right to blame landlords for inflating their rents.

Will London's communities really be changed forever by these changes? In Stamford Hill in Hackney, Mukul meets the Haredi Jewish community. It is a tight-knit quarter of 70 orthodox Jewish synagogues where many families qualify for housing benefit because they have several children. Could this historic community now be compelled to move?

Lord (David) Freud is a Minister in the coalition government and one of the architects of these reforms. He fields difficult questions about the government's plans to rein in rising welfare costs.

And at the fringes of London, in Barking and Dagenham, Mukul asks where the poorest will move if they are hit by the changes. In a district already convulsed by deep-seated rivalries over housing - which have in the past led to racial tension and the success of the far right British National Party (BNP) at the ballot box - Mukul discovers that there are now fears of heightened tension as people trickle out of central London.

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30 minutes

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Thu 25 Nov 2010 20:00

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