Wrexham Council has seen a huge rise in requests for financial support as residents struggle to pay their rent because of ‘crippling’ UK Government cuts, says Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates.
Figures obtained by the Labour AM show a ‘staggering’ increase of more than 2,000% in the number of hard-hit individuals and families asking the authority for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) as they’re unable to make ends meet.
DHPs are given at each local council’s discretion to those who qualify for housing benefit but are having trouble paying their rent or finding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy.
The data obtained by Mr Skates under the Freedom of Information Act reveals Wrexham County Borough Council received 76 applications for DHPs in the financial year 2009/10, the year before the Conservative-led coalition took control of Westminster.
Last year, the figure had rocketed to 1,698 – a rise of 2,234%. Four years ago, 70 of the requests were granted at a cost of £14,287. Last year there were 949 pay-outs totalling £220,305.
Wrexham isn’t the only local authority to have recorded a surge in DHP applications. Denbighshire County Council said it had seen a 387% rise, from 249 requests in 2009/10 (157 granted) to 964 in 2013/14 (634 successful). Last year Denbighshire paid out £223,896 to residents, an increase of almost 600% from four years ago (£37,505).
Mr Skates said: “These numbers are a stark reiteration of the fact that the savage cuts made by the Tory-led UK Government through its crippling austerity programme are really hurting people here in Clwyd South and across Wales.
“The coalition’s ideologically driven and spiteful welfare reform agenda has created the cost-of-living crisis they continue to deny and left Welsh people hundreds of pounds worse off a year through benefit caps and their abhorrent bedroom tax.
“While Cameron and Osborne continue to churn out statistics which claim the economy is recovering, the majority of us know different. Life isn’t lived on graphs and pie charts, and next year’s General Election will be the first since records began where living standards are lower than the previous one.
“The Tories’ benefit changes have not made any kind of positive impact or made the system fairer in any way, and they are doing nothing to tackle the problems that they have inflicted on so many hard-working people and families.”
Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones added: “These figures are very concerning and show the huge demands on local councils, like Wrexham, who are doing their best to help local people in the face of David Cameron’s Government’s policies.
“I am a strong supporter of serious and proper welfare reform in this country that doesn’t flinch from being tough in tackling abuse, but is also supportive of people in genuine need. I am very glad that a future Labour Government is committed to repealing the bedroom tax – something that will make a big difference for many families from our area.”