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Figures lay bare 'bedroom tax' and food bank nightmare in Cornwall
4:20pm Friday 27th September 2013 in News
Government welfare reform has caused surges in rent arrears, a rise in people struggling to pay council tax, a huge rise in people relying on food banks and many more people trying to find help, as the most vulnerable in Cornwall are affected by policy changes.
The stark impact of the reforms is now starting to show in the data Cornwall Council collects, says Cornwall councillor Andrew Wallis.
He said: "The emerging data is showing a rapid increase in rent arrears for those affected by under-occupation charge – bedroom tax – in Cornwall Council owned housing.
"Currently 560 of Cornwall Housing – Cornwall Council owned properties – tenants are in arrears due to the impact of the Bedroom Tax. This is a 140 per cent increase from April to June 2013.
"I should point out Cornwall Housing has 10,500 properties under its control; so in percentage terms this is 5% of tenants. As yet, there is no data which includes all the 19 RSL's operating in Cornwall, but I am reassuringly assured this is being worked on. Once this has been collated, the council will have a better understanding of the impact the welfare reform is having.
He said the collection rate for Council Tax is down, and to date Cornwall Council has issued 48,600 reminders, a 40% increase compared to last year. Adding: "Though it would be incorrect to say the increase is all down to the welfare reforms."
He said that with changes to the council tax benefit system, Cornwall is seeing 20,000 new payers of council tax. Out of this figure, 5,500 (28 per cent) of new payers are already in arrears with 1,000 households receiving a court summons.
The Council has seen a big increase in enquiries relating to welfare reform with 40% more benefit enquiries from March/April 2012 to March/April 2013. There has also been a 50% increase in revenue enquiries and 40% more ‘face to face’ enquiries regarding Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.
It is unknown what extra pressure these increases are putting on already squeezed council budgets.
As for Cornwall’s 23 food-banks, they have seen a 35 per cent increase in usage between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. With Mr Wallis concerned this figure will rise again by Q4 2013.
The data is taken from the 1st Quarter 2013 -14.
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