Doncaster Council has spent over £130,000 topping up a Government fund aimed at cushioning the impact of new changes to the benefits system, new figures have revealed.
During the course of the last financial year, Doncaster Council incurred the 17th highest overspend on payments to cover housing costs on top of what they were allocated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of any local authority in the country.
Figures released by the DWP this week showed how Doncaster Council spent some £133,134 on the 'discretionary housing payments'. This is in addition to the £570,107 allocated by the DWP.
It follows the introduction of the so-called "bedroom tax" and benefit cap.
Steve Mawson, Assistant Director of Finance at Doncaster Council, said: “The Discretionary Housing Payments scheme is designed to help meet shortfalls between the amount of rent someone has to pay and their Housing Benefit entitlement.
“It is a government scheme and they provide funding each year. Like many other councils, we also use some council funds on the scheme which helps many people. Last year we made about 2,400 awards to people, most of these were affected by the spare room subsidy but also other reforms such as the Benefit Cap and changes to Local Housing Allowances.
“We have a local policy which sets out the criteria we apply when deciding applications. In relation to the spare room subsidy we prioritise disabled people living in specifically adapted properties and also those who need an extra bedroom for health reasons. Each case is treated strictly on its merits and all customers receive equal and fair treatment.”
The figures showed how Doncaster Council is one of 111 local authorities who overspent on housing benefit costs to the combined total of £7.8million.
The Government increased its contribution in 2011 to support people affected by changes to housing benefit and Universal Credit, including the introduction of the benefit cap and the removal of the spare room subsidy.