The minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, yesterday denied that benefit migration was happening in Clacton.
Challenged by Clacton MP Douglas Carswell in Parliament about the impact of the benefit cap, Mr Duncan Smith claimed "there has been very little movement". He went on to say that if there was benefit migration caused by the benefit cap, it was no more than "about five miles".
"Iain has got this wrong" explained Douglas. "Benefit migration is happening, and happening in our area right now. As a result of the benefit cap, families are being squeezed out of London and ending up in Clacton."
"I am all in favour of the benefit cap" Douglas went on "but Tendring council needs to be given proper legal powers to discourage benefit migration. Sadly, our council has had to abandon its policy of residency tests before paying out certain benefits."
"There could be as many as 1,600 people on benefit living locally able to back claim benefits thanks to ministerial incompetence. That is all money that has to come out of a local budget"
"Having more and more families moving from London to Clacton is putting pressure on local schools and GPs".
"Ministers need to wake up to what is happening. Benefit migration is happening in Clacton, and we need to tackle it"
Here is the full exchange between Douglas and the minister, recorded in Hansard:
Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): As my right hon. Friend will know, the benefit cap is encouraging some people to move out of London, where rents are high, to areas such as Clacton and Thanet. Does he agree that local councils should be able to act to discourage benefit migration of that kind?
Mr Duncan Smith: There has been very little movement of more than about five miles from people's existing homes as a result of the benefit cap. Most people have settled, and many—two thirds—have either gone back to work or found alternative employment. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that there is something called the discretionary housing payment, and his local council, like any other, can make decisions about how it modifies the process. It is up to councils to do that, and we leave it with them.