Fears mount that property prices in Camden are leading to social cleansing
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There has been a significant drop in the number of school children claiming free school meals in the borough
Figures obtained by Sadiq Khan, Labour’s prospective Mayoral candidate for London, show that there has been a 25 per cent fall in the number of children claiming free school meals in Camden.
Instead of pointing towards a change in fortune for Camden’s occupants, commentators have said that this is due to high property prices driving poorer people out of the centre.
In 2010 7,778 children were eligible and claiming the meals but as of January 2015, this number was down to 5,784.
“Some families may now be earning enough to no longer qualify, but these figures reflect similar trends in council’s household relocation statistics and stories we hear from renters which indicate that high rents are pushing families out of inner London,” said Daniel Wilson Craw, spokesperson from campaign group Generation Rent.
“The scale of the drop in Camden suggests that a lot of families are being forced out of their homes, either through rent hikes or evictions and with no suitable accommodation for them in the borough, they have to move further afield.
“Whoever is elected as Mayor next year needs to step up the GLA’s action on housing, start building much more social housing and push Westminster for greater powers over the private rented sector.”
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While on average there has been a 16 per cent drop in eligibility for free school meals across inner London, another three London boroughs (Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and Southwark) in addition to Camden have seen a decline of 25 per cent or more.
The average decline drops to three per cent taking into consideration the whole of London, but the outer boroughs of Merton, Bexley and Croydon have seen rises of nearly 20 per cent, causing fears that families from areas like Camden are being forced to move out to suburban London.
“There’s no other explanation for the change in numbers apart from social cleansing. It would be different if the parents were suddenly earning big salaries, but they’re not,” said Khan on the figures.
“What’s happening is that there are children who have had to move away as a consequence to their parent’s changes in benefits. This is catastrophic because some have to travel an hour and a half to get to school, or are being moved around different schools.
“One of the great things about Camden is that you have people from different backgrounds living cheek by jowl. I grew up in London and my dad was a bus driver, but in my class I had children whose parents were teachers, doctors, professors. You don’t want one type of background in a school.
“My parents told me stories about segregation on the grounds of race in Camden and elsewhere. The signs saying “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish”. Labour outlawed this, but now unfortunately what we’re getting is segregation on the grounds of wealth.”
Khan added that if elected he wouldn’t agree with the “status quo” and would make sure at least half of new homes built in the capital were affordable, along with imposing substantial measures to regulate property development.
In June the Ham&High launched an investigation which found that almost 40 homeless families were being forced out of Camden– which also lead to accusations of social cleansing.
At the time, Camden council admitted that a lack of “affordable family-size accommodation” could have resulted in the families being moved out of the borough.
In addition, it was found that 322 households (including 248 households with children) in the borough had been affected by the benefits cap introduced by the coalition government – which froze housing payment at a maximum of £260 for a one bedroom property and £417 for a four bedroom house.
According to Foxtons, the average rental value for a property in Camden is £542 per week, while to buy the average four bedroom home you would be forking out £1,279,158.