Workers claiming housing benefit doubles in Rotherham

The number of working people relying on housing benefit has more than doubled in Rotherham since 2010.

The 110% hike from 1,727 claimants in May 2010 to 3,631 in August 2014 is one of the biggest rises in the country. In Barnsley, the figure went up by 51%. Nationally, the average increase is 66%.

MP John Healey blamed government failure on wages and said money spent on housing benefit should be used to build affordable homes.

Annual wages in Rotherham and Barnsley have fallen by £4,000 a year in real terms since 2010.

The former housing minister said: “These figures show that David Cameron has completely failed to curb spending on housing benefit. He has made life a misery for people on low incomes by cutting entitlements back to the bone but the housing benefit bill has continued to rise.

“The reasons for his failure are clear. Inaction on low pay and high rents has meant that wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs and so more people are struggling to afford their rent. This has meant huge growth in the number of working people now receiving housing benefit to help make ends meet.

“But the housing benefit bill is also being driven up by the Government’s decision to cut investment and hike rents in council and housing association homes. We should be building homes to bring down the bill.”

Labour has warned that if Tory failure on wages is repeated in the next Parliament, social security bills could rise by £9 billion – equal to a £337 for every household in the country.

Based on current projections, the number of working people reliant on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head will have more than doubled over the decade at a cost of over £14 billion.

Housing benefit can be paid to people in or out of work on a low income for part or all of their rent.

Labour has set out a plan to make work pay with a high-wage, high-skill economy. A Labour government will halve the number of people on low pay by 2025 and drive up living standards by helping businesses to boost skills, productivity and pay.

As housing minister in 2009-10 Mr Healey got councils building at scale for the first time in a generation.