Bedroom tax rent debts ‘will hit £1.5m’

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GOVERNMENT welfare changes piloted in Wigan ahead of a national rollout are taking a dramatic toll, an in-depth report warns.

Ministers introduced the system in a bid to reduce spending, make work pay for people on benefits and streamline the system.

The reforms were also introduced alongside a reduction in government funding to support the low paid pay their council tax bills.

But a report to the Wigan Council’s ruling cabinet seen by the Wigan Evening Post reveals that the domestic budgets of claimants across the borough have been hit hard since the changes were implemented in April.

And the real effects are now likely to be “more widespread and evident” over the next six months with some residents hit by more than one change, the report warns.

Councillors will be told that almost a fifth of the households receiving a council tax bill for the first time have now been summoned by the council for falling behind with payments.

Wigan and Leigh Housing’s rent arrears have gone up by £600,000 this year alone – more than a third of which the organisation directly attributes to the controversial Bedroom Tax, which affects 4,900 households in the borough.

And this could now lead to a total of £1.5m rent arrears by May should the trend continue.

And 114 households are affected by the benefit cap introduced in July to limit payments to a maximum of £500 per home per week for a couple with or without children.

A council pilot scheme set up to cover the loss of the Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants abolished in April has been receiving 10 visits a day from worried claimants.

To date there have been more than 1,744 requests for food parcels.