Exclusive: 50,000 people are now facing eviction after bedroom tax

One council tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since April, while tens of thousands in housing association properties are also affected

More than 50,000 people affected by the so-called bedroom tax have fallen behind on rent and face eviction, figures given to The Independent show.

The statistics reveal the scale of debt created by the Government’s under-occupancy charge, as one council house tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since it was introduced in April.

Figures provided by 114 local authorities across Britain after Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the campaign group False Economy show the impact of the bedroom tax over its first four months. The total number of affected council tenants across Britain is likely to be much higher than the 50,000 recorded in the sample of local authorities that responded to the FoI.

At least another 30,000 people living in housing association properties have also fallen behind on rent payments since the bedroom tax came in, with potentially tens of thousands more also affected, according to separate research by the National Housing Federation.

Barrow in Cumbria was the worst-affected area, where more than three-quarters of all council-house tenants have fallen into arrears since the bedroom tax started. In Clackmannanshire, Tamworth and South Kesteven more than half of all affected households have fallen behind on their rent since the charge was introduced.

The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, said: “These appalling figures prove that while this government stands up for a privileged few, a debt bombshell is exploding for a generation of people.

“While the nation’s millionaires get a huge tax cut, thousands more now confront arrears and eviction from which they’ll never recover. This is final proof that the hated tax must be dropped now.”

Responding to the figures highlighted by The Independent, Mr Byrne told the BBC that "thousands and thousands of our neighbours are being pushed into foodbanks and into the hands of loan sharks because of this vicious policy”.  

"The vast majority of people living in these homes are people with a disability. Hitting largely disabled people with this horrific tax and plunging them into debt - surely the message and the conclusion is very clear - we need to drop this tax, and drop it now," he said. 

He asked where people should move to, highlighting research published by the Labour party earlier in the year that suggested there were not suitable alternative homes for 90 per cent of those affected by the bedroom tax.

The bedroom tax penalises tenants if they have a “spare” bedroom by reducing their housing benefit by up to 25 per cent. As emergency funds from councils dry up, experts warn the situation is expected to deteriorate further over the coming months. The latest revelations are a further blow for the policy after a judge ruled last week that those with a smaller extra room would be exempt from the charge.

A smaller survey published last night found that one household in four hit by the bedroom tax has been pushed into rent arrears for the first time. Just over half of the 63,578 tenants of 51 housing associations were unable to meet their rent payments in the first months of the new system, according to research by the National Housing Federation.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik called for a rethink on the policy after finding the reform was causing “great stress and anxiety” to “very vulnerable” people.

United Nations official Raquel Rolnik called for a rethink on the bedroom tax policy (PA) United Nations official Raquel Rolnik called for a rethink on the bedroom tax policy (PA)  

Clifford Singer, campaign manager for False Economy, said: “Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the Government has forced through both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.”

Only 16 of the 114 local authorities who responded to the FoI request have a “no-eviction” policy, meaning many thousands of families risk losing their homes as a result of the bedroom tax.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The bedroom tax is not saving money. Instead it is pushing up rent arrears which will force councils to waste more cash on evictions, debt collection and emergency support for homeless families. 

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The removal of the spare-room subsidy is a necessary reform to return fairness to housing benefit. Even after the reform we pay over 80 per cent of most claimants’ housing benefit – but the taxpayer can no longer afford to pay for people to live in properties larger than they need. It is right that people contribute to these costs, just as private renters do.”

Case Study

Toni Bloomfield, 25, lives in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, with her partner, Paul Bolton, 42, and his four children.

“I have to pay £98 extra a month since the bedroom tax came in,” she said. “We’ve got a four-bedroom house and Paul’s four children, aged between two and eight, live with us. Before the school holidays we were struggling and now we’re nearly three months behind on rent.

“The children get free school meals and feeding them through the holidays was tough. Paul and I are only eating in the evenings two or three nights a week to make sure we can put enough food on the table. We're not working, but not out of choice. Trying to find a full-time job here is a nightmare.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent