Published: 12:00, 24 May 2016
Almost 150 families from a London borough are set to move to council homes in east Kent after social housing bosses outbid the local authority to capture the ex-army properties.
The 147 homes at Howe Barracks in Canterbury – which is now closed – were returned to their owners, private housing firm Annington Homes, when the MOD relinquished the lease on them.
Canterbury City Council - which has 2,500 people on its housing register - says it submitted a “robust and comprehensive” bid to secure the homes for local people, but lost out to the London Borough of Redbridge – 60 miles away in the north east of the capital.
Council bosses in Canterbury admit many of the families - who are currently in temporary accommodation - will need “considerable support” and will put a huge financial strain on local public services, including social care, health, schools and benefits, at a time when resources are already stretched to capacity.
Canterbury City Council leader Simon Cook said: “We did our utmost to try and get these properties for people on our waiting list because it would have made a difference to so many local families.
“The idea that a London borough can solve some of its housing problems by moving people miles away from friends and family in this way is very regrettable and we will be pushing the Local Government Association and other professional bodies to lobby for a change in legislation.
“The law does allow councils to place people in districts outside of their own, but of course this severely restricts the ability of the councils in those other areas to provide adequate and affordable housing for their own local people.
“We have explored the effective legal avenues open to us to prevent this from happening, but sadly there are none at present.
“We will do everything we can to help our newcomers settle into our community, and will work with all local agencies to ensure they have the support they need. Discussions with Redbridge are now planned and we are seeking urgent clarification on the level of support they will be providing for the people they are moving here.”
Last week it was revealed former soldier Phillip Fox - who was shot dead while living in a tent - had been refused a place on the housing list in Canterbury because he had no local links.
*Canterbury City Council on Tuesday said it was expecting 208 families from Redbridge - the number of properties it had bid for. Annington has since announced it has only 147 homes available for the London borough.