UP to 3,500 Bradford families have been given emergency help after being hit by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ – making the city one of the hardest-hit areas.
The Council shelled out £1.2 million in ‘discretionary housing payments’ (DHP) in 12 months, mostly to ease the pain of soaring rents because of housing benefit cuts.
Council chiefs were forced to top-up the fund with extra cash, after running out of the emergency DHP fund provided by the Government.
And they have revealed that almost half the cash for this financial year has already been allocated – with only three months gone.
Asked about the numbers seeking help, a Council spokesman said: “Demand is still high and we have already committed or spent 50 per cent of our funding.”
Labour – which has vowed to scrap the bedroom tax if it wins power - said the figures showed “the desperate problems it has caused”.
Ironically, the figures were released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to show that many councils had returned unspent DHPs.
That prompted Lord Freud, the Welfare Reform Minister, to say: “Recent scare stories about councils running out of money were grossly exaggerated”.
But the figures show that is exactly what happened in Bradford, which was handed £1.176m for 2013/14 – but was forced to spend £1.231m, an extra £62,000.
The spokeswoman said £465,794 was spent specifically to help with the bedroom tax and a further £398,974 after a combination of welfare changes.
A total of 2,437 grants were made because of the bedroom tax – with some people possibly receiving more than one – and a further 1,118 for wider benefit cuts.
The removal of the ‘spare room subsidy’ – the Government’s preferred term – cut housing benefit by 14 per cent for one extra bedroom and 25 per cent where there are two.
Ministers argued that forcing ‘under-occupying’ households to move will free up larger homes for families living in cramped conditions, as well as save £465m.
But previous figures revealed that very few tenants have moved to a smaller home – backing up protests that those smaller homes are not available.
The Council spokesman said: “At this point in the year, demand is still high and we have already committed or spent 50 per cent of our funding.
“Higher spend is quite normal in the first part of the year. Awards are commonly made for three to six months, so we expect spend to reduce as the year continues.”
But Lord Freud said 240 out of 380 local authorities across the country had underspent their DHP funding one in ten councils spending less than 60 per cent.
They included Calderdale, which spent £184,000, of £384,000, and Kirklees, which used £707,000, out of £853,000 - but Leeds spent its full £2.2m.