The Twitter debate about local benefits tourism
Followers of my twitter feed will have noticed a discussion between the local Labour candidate and myself about the way in which she was rehousing people living in Sandwell in Birmingham so that they could claim more benefits. Specifically to claim more council tax benefit.
This was based upon a speech that she gave on the subject of Children and Families with no recourse to public funds at a City Council committee in 2013.
She explained how she didn't rehouse anyone living in the refuge she managed in Sandwell into Sandwell itself, but instead housed them in Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton. She said that this placed an even greater burden on Birmingham's resources.
She is now claiming that she was not doing this for reasons of finance, but instead because of safety issues. According to what I have been told, however, she made no mention of safety and merely mentioned differential rules in terms of benefits.
Debates on Twitter are in public, but are constrained by the limit on the number of characters in each response. However, the above is I think a fair summary of what happened.
Clearly it is only right that each local authority should aim to resolve the problems faced by that authority and that people should not be encouraged to move around to claim more money. As she said this places a heavy burden on the resources. It also drives either more cuts or an increase in taxation.
There are very rare exceptions where for safety reasons someone needs to move out of their local authority area. Normally moving to Birmingham would not be far enough to achieve this. However, the debate at the Scrutiny Committee, which I think was on 4th October 2013, was not considering safety issues merely the question of being able to claim more benefits if you moved.