HARD-UP families hit by the housing benefit cap could be sent to live in the Midlands under a proposal being considered by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
The authority confirmed it is in talks with a housing provider that has suggested buying up to 500 homes in Derby and Nottingham to be filled with families from London boroughs struggling to provide affordable homes. Kensington and Chelsea are among other local authorities considering the move, which opponents claim is akin to 'social cleansing'.
Westminster rejected the plans.
Private property firm Smart Housing Group says it could provide 150 properties within a year with an option for up to 500 in the future. Town halls are considering the plans after welfare reforms to cap benefits to £250 a week for a one-bedroom flat and £400 for a four-bedroom property came into force.
Opponents of the reforms say the changes will make renting in inner London unaffordable for many receiving benefits.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council admitted it has already moved seven families out of London but says no deal has been done for further relocations and pledged any agreement would not result in a large-scale exodus.
But Hammersmith's Labour MP Andy Slaughter slammed the plans and accused the authority of bringing about a housing crisis itself by blocking planning permission for affordable homes and selling off existing properties at auction.
He said: "This will destroy families and it is not only immoral but will end up costing the state more in the future. The council's motivation is purely political and all comes down to their redevelopment strategy which involves driving poorer people away. It's despicable."
Housing group Shelter added the proposals were 'terrifying' and would uproot families from 'schools, support networks and employment opportunities'.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council said the families it has already moved were 'all close to London' and had left because 'generally their own circumstances had made it possible'.
It added it is focused on getting landlords to reduce rents below the benefit cap to prevent people moving and has done so with a 63 per cent success rate. Councillor Andrew Johnson, head of housing, said: "We do not want to see anyone having to leave the area because of the cap."
He added the council has provided a £400,000 fund to help the most vulnerable families.
A spokesman for Derby City Council said: "If another local authority should wish to engage with a provider to make placements within Derby, we would look very carefully both at our own legal obligations and responsibilities and those facing the other authority."
DERBY VS HAMMERSMITH AND FULHAM
Population: 236,400 vs 169,700
Average house price: £175,754 vs £607,484
Price of a pint: £2.77 vs £3.85
Notable people: Florence Nightingale vs Hugh Grant
Landmarks: Derby Cathedral vs Hammersmith Bridge
Shopping: Westfield, 190 shops vs Westfield, 265 shops
Paper: Derby Telegraph vs Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle
Claim to fame: Real ale capital of world vs Only London borough with three Premier League football clubs