A council leader met with a London mayor over concerns about out of town residents taking up south Essex homes.

Basildon Council Leader Gavin Callaghan met with mayor of Newham Council Rokhsana Fiaz to find ways to stop the ‘out of control’ placement of homeless and vulnerable individuals and families into accommodation in the Basildon borough.

The two leaders agreed that action needs to be taken to protect vulnerable children and families, in particular, and to better manage out-of-borough placements.

The management of the issue has become increasingly problematic following the government agreeing ‘permitted development’ rights, which allow conversion of offices into flats, without the need for planning approval.

Together with the acute need many London boroughs face and the shortage of adequate funding, this adds up to a huge challenge.

Following the meeting, Mr Callaghan said: “There is a toxic combination of factors that is causing real problems in Basildon. Too many conversions under permitted development rights – out of control of our planning officers – are resulting in cramped and poor quality flats in our borough.

“These rabbit hutches are utterly unsuitable for people on Basildon’s housing waiting list, yet unscrupulous landlords, keen to turn over a quick profit, are marketing these properties to desperate London boroughs who can pay them the higher Local Housing Allowance.

“The result is vulnerable individuals and families are arriving in our borough in large numbers, housed miles away from the support and family networks they desperately need, often against their wishes, in accommodation unsuitable for their needs and in locations that put them at further risk.

“This has to stop and I am pleased that the mayor of Newham and I have agreed on this. I understand the pressures that London boroughs are under, but we need to find a better way of managing these issues.

“First, we have agreed to develop a protocol that goes beyond the statutory requirement to notify us when a homeless family is placed in our borough. Under this protocol Newham Council will notify Basildon Council when any individual or family is placed by them into our borough.

“Second, we have arranged to meet with the company, commissioned by Newham Council to find their out of borough placements, so that we can discuss improvements to the process.

“We all know this is no way to create and sustain communities and we have to find better ways, while we work to ensure our housing supply catches up with demand.”