The first council has been forced to stop supporting some tenants hit by the bedroom tax after spending most of its emergency housing fund months before the end of the financial year.
The government requires councils to use a pot of money known as ‘discretionary housing payment’ to help out tenants unable to meet their housing costs due to welfare cuts. Documents seen by Inside Housing magazine revealed that discretionary housing payments awarded by West Lancashire Council had “ceased for existing claimants” in November.
By September, the council had already spent £144,000 out £174,000 allocated by central government for this purpose. Support for tenants claiming the bedroom tax accounted for £115,000 of that spending - despite the government’s own funding mechanism allowing just £108,000 to cover these claims for the whole financial year. The council is now reallocating the funding it has left.
Other councils have been hit by the same shortfalls, but have dipped into their own coffers to make up the gap. This is the first known example of a council stopping payments to tenants who had already successfully claimed DHP.
West Lancashire Council said that it was required to ensure what funding remained was “targeted to those who require it most”, such as disabled tenants who need financial help to stay in specially-adapted homes designed for their needs.
A spokesperson said: “The council follows the guidance issued by government on how these funds should be typically allocated and recognises that this is temporary funding in order to help alleviate any hardship that tenants may face, albeit for a limited period only, and therefore is not a permanent arrangement to compensate for changes to welfare reform.
“The council has not and will not apply a blanket approach to any DHP applications. All cases are treated individually and on their own merit,” he added.Reuse content