Housing services in Doncaster could be faced with a £24 million black hole as they chase millions more in rent arrears due to the faster than expected roll-out of Universal Credit.
Deputy mayor Coun Glyn Jones said the rate of transfer onto controversial benefit system had been ‘greater than the forecast’ from figures provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
He hit out at the Government and called Universal Credit 'draconian’ for putting people into poverty.
Universal Credit combines six previous payments into one in a bid to streamline the service.
But the scheme has been besieged by a raft of problems leaving claimants without money for several weeks. Concerns are also being raised that 3.2 million working families will lose £48 a week - about £2,500 a year compared with the old system.
Coun Jones said that now Universal Credit is being paid directly to tenants, the council will have to collect £9 million more in rent than last year.
But he warned the figure could top £24 million once the welfare benefit is rolled out across the borough.
Council bosses said they now have a total of 2,350 cases and 81 per cent are in rent arrears - an increase of 481 cases from April to June.
St Leger Homes has implemented a ‘12-week action plan’ to try and mitigate any further complications.
Coun Glyn Jones said: “The figure could well rise to around £24 million once Universal Credit is fully implemented across Doncaster. There is now that added pressure both on the tenants and housing management.
“But what’s equally important is the poverty that people are suffering from being forced into this draconian benefit.”
Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones said: “It’s quite obvious Universal Credit is hitting many of our residents hard and the frightening thing is, it’s not been fully rolled out yet.
“One of the shocking thing is there are working families that are going to food banks and something must be wrong when two members of the family are working and are seeking food to eat.
“The concept of one credit payment is fine but this Government needs to learn that the delays are putting greater pressure on our residents – more than anything anyone has to suffer.”
Coun Nigel Ball added: “It’s challenging times for us as a council and for St Leger and certainly in the cases of benefit reform like Universal Credit.
“It’s worth noting that these are our people in our communities that are suffering from austerity after nine years and the recent UN report was quite damning on the welfare reforms and should at least make the Government U-turn.
“This can only be described as punitive and vindictive to our people.”