Councils were faced with a four-fold rise in applications for a housing hardship fund in the month after the so-called “bedroom tax” was introduced, figures show.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the numbers were “not surprising” but councils said they were struggling to fill a massive financial shortfall.
In April, following the implementation of the tax, which effectively charges tenants for having unoccupied bedrooms, councils received 13,272 applications for discretionary housing payments (DHP), designed to help hard-up tenants pay rent.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Inside Housing, showed that 102 councils received 17,673 applications – a 302 per cent increase – compared with 4,401 in April 2012. Birmingham City Council received the most applications with an increase of 2,105 on April 2012. “The effective cost of the bedroom tax in Birmingham is £11m and we have a DHP pot of £3.77m,” said Cllr John Cotton. “You can see the numbers just don’t work. We are under enormous pressure.
“I have got people coming to my councillor surgeries saying they are having to make a choice between paying rent and feeding their fuel meters and feeding themselves.”
A spokesman for the DWP said the numbers were “not surprising”.
He said: “Traditionally applications are spread out across the year but this time there is a spike because of the change in policy so people have gone at the beginning of the financial year.”
He said this year’s DHP “pot” of £150m nationally was being monitored.