Struggling tenants owe Angus Council more than 73,000 because of the so-called bedroom tax.
Since its implementation in April, at least 719 Angus residents have fallen foul of the UK Government’s new spare room subsidy, Freedom of Information figures reveal.
Council tenants have been hit particularly hard by the controversial policy which has slashed housing benefits by up to 25% for those considered to be under-occupying their homes.
As of this summer, 475 council house tenants are reported to have been hit by the welfare changes.
Of those tenants, 165 are said to have fallen into arrears directly because of the policy, amounting to 73,000.
Yet, because the council employs a strict no-eviction policy for those who have been hit by the bedroom tax, officials say they’ve made every effort to ensure that families are adequately supported despite the changes.
“An extensive exercise has been undertaken by Angus Council to ensure that anyone affected by the spare room subsidy has claimed and been paid a discretionary housing payment,” explained Joy Anderson, a service manager with the council.
“The effect of the spare room subsidy on arrears is, therefore, estimated to be minimal.”
Council leader Iain Gaul is hopeful that officials can go one better.
Thanks to changes in the amount of financial support local authorities are allowed to provide for families in need, along with new yearly grants from the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions and the Scottish Government, he reckons Angus Council now has the power to completely erase the impact of the bedroom tax across the county.
Over the coming year, the tax is predicted to reduce the housing income of residents by some 391,000.
Now, Angus has access to around 500,000 worth of funds to combat that figure.
“We don’t know what will happen next year with changes to rules and allocation,” Cllr Gaul said.
“But this year, we will definitely be able to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax in full.”
The new relief scheme allows the council to make payments to individuals who require further financial assistance by topping up their housing benefit.
The tenant must be entitled to housing benefit before they can apply to the scheme, and it’s required there must be a shortfall between the amount of their rent and the amount of housing benefit they receive.