FURY AT MUM ON £100,000 A YEAR BENEFITS

Tuesday February 16, 2010

By Cyril Dixon


BRITAIN’S benefits shambles was exposed last night by the case of a mother-of-six who receives £7,000 a month of taxpayers’ cash to live in a £2million mansion.

Critics hit out at the Government for overseeing a system that entitles jobless Essma Marjan to claim almost £100,000 a year in housing benefit and other free handouts.

The money allows her to live in a plush five-bedroom villa in a desirable part of London, close to the home of Sir Paul McCartney. The 34-year-old single mother says she was forced to move after the birth of her five-month-old son meant her previous home was too small for her growing brood.

She even moaned: “The house is lovely and very big but I don’t have enough furniture to fill it.” Yesterday, outraged politicians called for an overhaul of the system which allows Miss Marjan to legitimately claim £1,600-a-week in housing benefit, adding up to £84,000 a year.

She also receives an estimated £15,000 a year in other payouts, including child benefit. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May said: “We cannot go on with a situation where families on housing benefits live in million-pound mansions. “We plan to review the whole system to make sure it is fair. Families on benefits should not be able to live in houses that people in work and not on benefits can’t afford.”

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This is a huge bill, which is clearly excessive. The current rules put councils in the impossible situation of having to pay for houses chosen by the claimant, even if they cost an absolute fortune. “Of course people shouldn’t be left without a home but there are plenty of better value houses. This is costly for taxpayers and deprives other people of much needed assistance.”

London-born Miss Marjan found the house in Maida Vale, north-west London, herself on the internet and rented it through a private letting agency, rather than wait for Westminster City Council to give her a vacant property on its books.

She then applied to the council for £1,600-a-week in housing benefit, the maximum allowed. She shares the property with her six children, Zekia, 14, Abdulhakim, 13, Jehad, 11, Hamza, ten, and Ayman, two, and Nasir, five months. Her first four children were fathered by London-born tiler Clint Benjamin and the last two by Pakistani lawyer Arfan Razaq. She has split from both.

Describing her good fortune, Miss Marjan said: “I moved here at the beginning of the month as I’m entitled to a five-bedroom house. “I was in a three-bedroom council house but I needed a bigger place once my new baby came along. So the council agreed to pay the £1,600 a week to a private landlord as they didn’t have any houses big enough.” The four-storey house boasts five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double living room, and a large fitted kitchen-diner with French doors leading on to a landscaped garden.

The family also has two flat-screen televisions and several leather sofas, while the wooden floorboards are scattered with her children’s toys. Westminster City Councillor Melvyn Caplan said: “The whole system is entirely wrong and people should not be able to choose where they live and the Government then have to pay that amount. “It is totally unfair. We’ve been calling for some time for the Government to reform this.”

His fellow councillor Phillipa Roe added: “The Government has repeatedly pledged to reform housing benefit but failed to do so. The whole system needs a radical review and ministers should stop dragging their heels and get on and do it.”

A neighbour of Miss Marjan said: “If she has managed to find a loophole in the system that allows her to live here when there are thousands of other people close to the poverty line then it is ridiculous. “It’s unfair to other people who have worked hard for their money.” The exorbitant benefit claims are possible under Labour’s controversial Local Housing Allowance, which enables council tenants to rent property from private landlords and apply for benefit.

The rates range from a single room in a shared house up to properties with five bedrooms and the benefits paid out are based on rental figures for the area. The maximum amount is set by central government. Other recent benefits scandals include a single mother of eight who claimed £90,000 a year to live in a £2.6million mansion in Notting Hill, west London.

In total, 16 families are living in million-pound-plus London properties funded by the LHA. A spokeswoman for Westminster City Council claimed the local authority was powerless under the rules to refuse to pay Miss Marjan’s rent.

She said: “We didn’t place her there. If she can show she is eligible for a house that big, under the current rules, she can find a house herself and come to the council and say I’d like to claim housing benefit for a five-bedroom house and get £1,600 a week. “We don’t agree with the system and have been asking for a change for quite a while on this.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman claimed that only a “small number of people” were “getting excessively high payments”. He said: “We took immediate action and capped the Local Housing Allowance in April. The plans we published in December go even further and will exclude high rents from LHA rate calculations.

“Only a very small minority of people receive such high rates of housing benefit. The average payment is £81 a week.”

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/...-year-benefits