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City in grip of housing benefits 'explosion'
6:00am Friday 9th May 2014 in News
New figures show that Bradford is in the grip of a low pay crisis – with an explosion in the number of working people surviving on housing benefit.
The number of claimants in the city who have jobs has leapt by 73 per cent since the last General Election, according to official statistics.
Labour said low wages and part-time jobs meant more and more working people could only “put food on the table” with a housing benefit top-up.
Rachel Reeves, the party’s work and pensions spokesman, said: “Lots of people have not had a pay rise for years and they don’t get the hours they used to – they can’t make ends meet.”
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted the number of housing claimants – and the overall bill – was falling.
The figures show that the total number of housing benefit claimants has crept up in Bradford since May 2010 – to 41,988 in November last year.
But that masks the huge rise in the number who are in work, which has soared from 4,087 to 7,064, an increase of 73 per cent.
Across the district, there are 28,513 people working, but on housing benefit, after similar leaps in Calderdale (up 56 per cent), Kirklees (58 per cent) and Leeds (89 per cent).
Miss Reeves, who uncovered the statistics, said the bill for people earning so little that they received housing benefit had risen by £6bn since the election.
Labour would reverse the trend by building more homes, stabilising rents, extending childcare to more families and by tackling abuse of the minimum wage and zero-hours contracts.
But a DWP spokesman said: “The housing benefit bill was spiralling out of control in the years up to 2010, doubling to £20bn in a decade.
“Action this Government has taken is bringing that bill under control – saving the taxpayer over £2bn a year. We have seen the number of housing benefit claimants fall over the last quarter.”
There has been growing criticism of the Government’s insistence that getting people off benefits and into work is, by itself, a route out of poverty.