COUNCILS across the country have been accused of dumping benefit claimants on a Canvey caravan park.

Castle Point Council’s strategic director, Andrew Smith, made the claim as he hit back at the owners of Thorney Bay Village, who alleged the authority had contacted them for help in housing benefit claimants five years ago.

The council has strongly denied the claim by Holly King, who manages the park for the King family, and said it had also told other local authorities to stop sending homeless people to the caravan park.

The row blew up after it emerged the park owners received a total of £3.8million in housing benefit from the council in 2013 and 2014.

Mr Smith said: “The council has not approached the park owner for assistance to accommodate individuals and families on housing benefit at Thorney Bay.

“The council has never referred housing benefit claimants to Thorney Bay. None of the existing tenants has been referred to the site by the council or been housed at Thorney Bay by the council acting in its capacity as the local housing authority.

“The council has previously requested that other local authorities do not place persons in temporary accommodation at Thorney Bay and it would be incongruous for the council to make this request and approach the park owner for assistance with persons in need of accommodation.

“It is therefore not accepted by the council that the statement by Miss King is correct.”

Councillors and some park residents have claimed many of the tenants come from outside the borough, including the north of England, and that Essex Probation places exoffenders there.

Miss King insisted the caravans were insulated, but some residents claimed they were freezing cold in winter.

Many local politicians, including Canvey councillor Ray Howard, Canvey Island Independent Party leader Dave Blackwell, Ukip leader Alan Bayley and Tory parliamentary candidate for Castle Point Rebecca Harris, questioned if the mobile homes were suitable for year-round living.

Beverley Egan, Castle Point councillor responsible for housing, accused the park owners of profiting from others’ misfortune.

Mrs Egan said: “It must be very difficult for people finding themselves in situations, often through no fault of their own, that lead them to seek cheaper but unsuitable housing, owned by people it would seem, who don’t have a problem making money from others’ misfortune.

“It is always difficult when these people can operate within the legal, if not, moral expectations, isn't it?”

Mr Smith refused to say if the council had a duty of care to housing benefit claimants or if it had inspected homes on the park.

Miss King declined to comment.