Council’s rent arrears up by £2m since ‘bedroom tax’ introduced

Council chiefs have revealed rent arrears have shot up by almost £2m since the controversial bedroom tax was introduced,

The authority is currently owed almost £6m in unpaid rent by its council housing tenants, 
compared to £4m at the end of 2012-13, a 50 per cent increase since the end of the last financial year.

But new figures show there are also some winners among the city’s council tenant population.

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By the end of August, 196 people had completed sales under the Right to Buy scheme.

Current projections show that 375 properties will be sold in 2013-14.

Campaigners said today the apparently contradictory numbers prove that housing policy is “just a mess”.

A new report says that 60 per cent of Leeds council tenants affected by the bedroom tax were in arrears at the end of July.

John Davies, spokesman for the Hands Off Our Homes campaign group, said he was “not at all surprised”.

“If 60 per cent are in arrears, I am shocked that 40 per cent are still finding the extra money in their budget,” he said.

“It will get worse, because we haven’t even had the energy prices firebomb fall yet.

“It will be a case of eating or heating or paying rent.”

Commenting on the rise in Right to Buy sales, he said: “If you get a 70 per cent discount, the mortgage repayments are probably going to be lower than the rent.

“The whole housing policy is just a mess.”

Rob Warm, head of external affairs for the National Housing Federation, said: “The sad reality is that many families are facing real financial hardship as a result of the bedroom tax.

“Some residents are struggling to pay the shortfall and falling into arrears despite intensive levels of support.

“We have fought long and hard against the bedroom tax on behalf of housing associations across the country.

“This is an unfair Government policy which hits the most vulnerable the hardest, and it should be repealed.”

Conservative councillor John Procter, who chairs the council’s housing scrutiny panel, which will today examine the new figures, said the amount of arrears attributable to under-occupancy were a lot less than the £2m overall rise.

“If there are people not paying their rent, then it’s our job to find out why,” he said.