STRUGGLING tenants affected by the bedroom tax have had to be bailed out by Bolton Council due to a shortfall in government funding, Labour leaders have claimed.
The authority has spent more than £17,000 of taxpayers’ money in discretionary housing payments to 836 people who have had their benefits cut.
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show the government allocated £673,659 for the council to give out in the payments, which hard-up residents can apply for to ‘top up’ their housing benefit.
But between 2013 and 2014 the authority spent £691,141 on the payment, meaning an extra £17,482 had to come out of council coffers.
MP for Bolton West Julie Hilling said: “David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s bedroom tax has been a disaster for the hundreds of thousands of people hit by the cruel levy and it has come at a huge cost for taxpayers in my constituency.
“The government’s own figures have shown their discretionary housing payment funding has failed to cover the huge costs — meaning the policy is not only mean and unfair but costing our council money, which is needed for our vital local services.”
More than £410,000 in payments were made as a direct consequence of the spare room subsidy.
Leader of Bolton Council Cllr Cliff Morris said the extra payments come in addition to massive spending cuts imposed on local government.
He said: “Over the past few years, government cuts have massively reduced the funding to local authorities — in Bolton Council’s case, our budget has been cut by more than £100 million.
“The funding we receive for discretionary housing payments isn’t even one-third of the £2.2 million which Bolton residents lost last year as a result of the bedroom tax.”
A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said it was up to individual councils to choose how much to give out in discretionary housing payments.
If they chose to pay out more than they were allocated that was their decision, he added.
He said: “We have made £345 million available to councils to support vulnerable people since reforms were introduced.
“Bolton Council benefited from additional funds from the bidding scheme but if they needed extra money they could have bid for more, as £7.1m went unspent.”