THE number of people claiming housing benefit has fallen by 10 per cent in Bolton since the introduction of the controversial ‘bedroom tax’.
The figures were obtained by a Freedom of Information request carried out by the ConservativeHome website, to which Bolton Council was one of 141 councils to respond.
The figures show that 262 out of 2,384 homes that have been affected by the ‘spare room subsidy’ have come off housing benefit altogether.
ConservativeHome suggests this reduction points to people moving back into work.
They say: “The evidence is clear: The cut in the spare room subsidy is already proving to make a crucial difference in rewarding work.”
However, the figures do not make clear the reasons why there has been a reduction.
Introduced in April, the bedroom tax reduces housing benefit for those deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.
Having one spare bedroom means housing benefit could be reduced by £14 a week. The bedroom tax is supposed to encourage residents with more than one room to downsize, but the policy has been criticised because there are not enough smaller properties available for people to move into.
It has also been condemned for unfairly hitting the poor and vulnerable.
Councillor Andy Morgan welcomed the statistics, showing that 10 per cent of people have come off housing benefit, but said the link between work and the bedroom tax is a spurious one.
He said: “Any results on employment are welcome but it is naive to suggest the bedroom tax has forced people to go back to work.
“We have to look at all the factors such as a recovering economy.”
He added: “Locally, we are against the bedroom tax and will continue to work with groups like Bolton at Home to mitigate any negative impact of the tax.
“We urge the Government to look again.
Bolton at Home has a “no homelessness” policy to help those affected by the tax.
Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West said: “It is absolute nonsense to say that the bedroom tax drives people to find work.
“People are desperate to find work anyway.”
She questioned the reliability of the figures as people are often in and out of work, therefore on and off benefits.
She added: “Housing benefit isn’t just paid to people who are unemployed.
“It is paid to people in low paid jobs as well.”