Soaring numbers of Wigan council tenants falling into arrears

editorial image

The ratio of tenants failing to make council rent payments has risen for the past three years.

A report given to the town hall’s housing advisory panel has highlighted the growing problem of people missing more than seven weeks of payments in a row.

Other news: Week In Court

Contrary to this growing number, which has gone from 4.9 per cent to 6.1 per cent since 2014/15, the number of tenants actually being evicted due to rent arrears has fallen dramatically since last year - now with only 0.05 per cent of council tenants losing their allocated homes.

The figures have come to light after the town hall’s housing services department was asked to provide a report showing the progress made throughout the year, which gives targets which should be reached in certain areas.

The report reveals that the council has made improvements in areas such as customer satisfaction regarding anti-social behaviour complaints, which has rocketed 15 per cent in the past three years.

Wigan’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau has already highlighted the growing problems faced by council tenants on zero hour contracts.

The service revealed that it had a 13 per cent increase in the first six months of last year and a huge rise of 26 per cent of advice calls over a two-year period. A spokesperson for the CAB said: “Zero hours contracts create financial uncertainty. When an individual doesn’t know whether they will earn enough in a working week or month to pay the bills it is incredibly difficult for them to draw up any kind of meaningful and realistic budget.

“The process of claiming benefits to assist with income shortfalls can be lengthy and thus debts can quickly mount up. Universal credit impacts claimants further due to the high level of recovery of rent arrears if deducted from benefits.”

Last week it was revealed that thousands of sanctions had been made across the borough in the past five years, meaning that people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance had had their benefits cut or stopped altogether for at least three months.

Lesley O’Halloran at Wigan Council, said: “Although overall arrears have remained relatively stable there has been an increase in those households with higher level arrears. A contributory factor is the growth in the number of tenants that are claiming Universal Credit which involves a waiting period of up to eight weeks where claimants may not have access to any income.

“During this waiting period tenants often struggle to pay their rent although support is provided by the council’s financial support team and rent service around budgeting and debt advice. It is important to highlight that the overall number of tenants in arrears has actually reduced over the past two years.”