Downing Street eyes curb on immigrants’ benefits

LOCAL people could receive priority access to social housing and new immigrants may be refused access to some NHS services under plans being discussed by the government.

The policies are designed to dissuade Romanians and Bulgarians from travelling to the UK next year when work restrictions are lifted.

Downing Street yesterday confirmed any move to introduce a residency requirement on benefits – such as a minimum of one year spent in the country before accessing the welfare state – would also have to apply to British citizens under EU law.

“We have to operate within the law, including EU law. It is my understanding that one can’t discriminate between EU nationalities within the law,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said it was “immensely sensible” for people with a connection to a local area to receive priority for social housing.

Romanians and Bulgarians have been allowed to move to the UK since 2007 but currently have to apply for a work visa unless they are self-employed.