New tax fuels spiralling debts in South Yorkshire

Clifford Singer from the False Economy group.
Clifford Singer from the False Economy group.
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Thousands of South Yorkshire council tenants have been pushed into debt by the Government’s so-called ‘bedroom tax’, according to the first research on its impact.

Rotherham and Barnsley are the worst affected authorities in Yorkshire, with almost 2,000 people falling into arrears since the changes came in on April 1.

Fifty per cent of homes are affected in Rotherham and 43 per cent in Barnsley, while in Doncaster the figure is 36 per cent.

In Sheffield 870 households have gone into the red - 19 per cent of the total.

Figures were released by councils in response to Freedom of Information requests.

New legislation means tenants have their housing benefit reduced by up to 25 per cent if their home has a spare bedroom.

The idea is to encourage people living in larger properties to move to smaller ones, freeing up space for families who need the room.

But critics say many tenants are unable to make a move, even if they wanted to, because smaller houses are not available.

Campaign group False Economy, which collected the data, said some families were being given help through emergency funds provided by councils.

But with that money rapidly drying up, the group predicts the situation is likely to get far worse in the months to come.

Spokesman Clifford Singer said the reforms had created chaos.

“Together with the raft of other benefits cuts that have come in, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears.

“Those who were already struggling with the cost of living are now experiencing a full blown crisis.”

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.”