Benefit cuts are expected to increase rent arrears in Birmingham by £4.4 million and lead to rocketing homelessness, the city council has told a judicial review.
The impact of cuts to benefits has been highlighted in a submission from the city council to the High Court, which is considering ten claims bought against the Government by people affected by the cuts.
The authority warned that plans to dock housing benefit for people in social housing, a policy described as a “bedroom tax” by critics, would lead to a total cut in housing benefit across the city of £11 million.
While one of the aims is to encourage people to move into smaller homes, there simply wouldn’t be enough small properties available.
Christopher Gibbs, Birmingham City Council’s assistant director of revenues and benefits, said: “The implication for Birmingham City Council and the citizens of Birmingham is huge.
“Given the shortfall faced by households and given the lack of options available to them, I can predict that the level of rent arrears will increase in Birmingham by £4.4 million which will doubtless result in an increase in evictions and consequently homelessness.”
He made the comment in a written submission to the High Court of Justice, which is considering claims that the policy discriminates against people with disabilities and other vulnerable people such as victims of domestic violence.
The city council is not directly involved in the case but submitted evidence as an “interested party” which could be affected by the outcome.
There are 13,557 social housing tenants who are deemed to have spare bedrooms in the city based on the government’s criteria and therefore stand to lose housing benefit. Of these, 10,449 have one spare bedroom and 3,108 have two.
However, there are 11,463 households waiting for a one bedroom property – while throughout the entire 2012-13 financial year only 2,152 one-bedroom properties became available.
This means that there is little chance many of the people over-occupying will be able to move into a smaller home.
It comes as a report by a think tank branded part of Birmingham a “benefit ghetto”.
The city ward of Brandwood has the second highest proportion of residents in the country on out-of-work benefits, according to the Centre for Social Justice, which was founded by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith when the Conservatives were in opposition.
Only Rhyl West, a ward in Wales, has a higher proportion of the population dependent on benefits.
Christian Guy, the think tank’s managing director, said: “The welfare ghettos trapping as many as 6.8 million people are a national disgrace. They represent years of tragic failure and indifference from the political class. People in these neighbourhoods have been consistently written off as incapable and their poverty plight inevitable.
“Their lives have been limited by a fatalistic assumption that they have little prospect of anything better.
“While some campaigners accuse this Government of being callous for its benefit cap, the truth is there has been a much more damaging welfare cap in these communities for years – an unjust cap on personal potential.”
But the study was condemned by Birmingham Council leader Sir Albert Bore.
The Labour council leader said: “This is typical of the Right-wing ideology that is being pushed by some of the most uncaring elements of the Conservative Party.
“The residents will be horrified to hear that they are work-shy and that they are living on benefits for convenience rather than seeking out employment.
“There is character assassination in the think tank’s statements which will appal many of the residents of the ward who are continuing to look for employment but are failing to do so because jobs simply aren’t there.”