PEOPLE on Universal Credit are leaving Brighton and Hove City Council almost £400,000 short when it comes to paying their rent.

Eight per cent – or about one in 12 – council tenants are behind on their rent after receiving the new payment that combines housing benefit, child tax credit, jobseeker’s allowance, income support, working tax credit and employment support allowance.

These 948 people owe 38 per cent of all rent arrears, leaving the council with £368,000 in unpaid rent for the first nine months of the current financial year.

The council said: “We have carried out a number of analyses of arrears affecting council tenants and the effect of Universal Credit.

“Arrears for council tenants claiming Universal Credit are significantly higher than for those claiming housing benefit or not claiming benefits at all.”

The five-week wait for payment is one of the main reasons behind the problems. And tenants are often paid the wrong amount, according to the council.

“Sanctions” – or reduced payments – are also a factor, the council said.

Universal Credit is paid as a lump sum, with sanctions taken from the total.

Previously, housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord.

Payments have also been reduced for some after the severe disability premium was removed.

A further 552 people owe a total of £55,000 as a result of the removal of the bedroom tax – intended to penalise those with empty bedrooms in their council homes.

Forty two people are affected by the benefit cap of £384.62.

They make up less than half of one per cent of council tenants and owe £6,000 in rent between them.

In total, welfare reform is estimated to have cost the council £429,000 so far this year.

The vast majority of council tenants are able to pay their rent.

Councillor Tracey Hill, in charge of housing, said: “The Labour council takes very seriously the impact that Conservative Government welfare changes and austerity overall is having on the ability of many in the city to maintain their housing, including our council tenants.

“Many welfare changes have had a serious impact on residents, affecting their lives in many ways and not least driving a rising demand for food banks, which is a national scandal.

“Council tenants deserve our support to maintain their tenancies with as little stress and worry as possible, and any loss of rental income through arrears also impacts on the budget that the

council has to spend on the council housing stock and tenants’ services, so there are two issues at stake.

Green councillor David Gibson, spokesman for housing, said: “As more tenants are moved over to Universal Credit, arrears will get worse – and along with the misery of being in debt they will be forced to choose between food and rent.

“Then it is the council that has to pick up the pieces left by austerity.

“Welfare reform punishes poorer people and forces them to pay the clear-up costs of a banking crisis they did not cause.”

The Conservatives were approached for comment.