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Shocking new Fife rent arrears figures branded “horrific”

Councillor David Ross (front left) and Councillor David Alexander at the launch of Fife Council's advice leaflet into Universal Credit.
Councillor David Ross (front left) and Councillor David Alexander at the launch of Fife Council's advice leaflet into Universal Credit.

Introduction of a controversial new benefit system in the kingdom has racked up rent arrears of £1.53 million, Fife Council has revealed.

More than 6,000 council tenants are now receiving the controversial benefit, which is being rolled out nationwide to replace former grants including housing benefit.

On average each Fife Council tenant in receipt of Universal Credit is £246 behind in rent payments.

It is thought a five-week delay from applying to receiving the money is to blame.

Council SNP co-leader David Alexander said: “The numbers are horrific, £1.53m in Fife.”

The People’s Assembly Fife said people were falling into arrears or seeing existing debt balloon as they waited for their first payment.

Introduction of Universal Credit is widely blamed for pushing people into debt and forcing them to rely on food handouts.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd last month admitted that its roll-out and people’s inability to access money had “led to an increase in foodbank use”.

The level of rent arrears in Fife among Universal Credit claimants has almost doubled in nine months as around 480 tenants a month are shifted onto the benefit during the roll out.

Mr Alexander said: “That will go up as more and more people go live on Universal Credit.”

He also welcomed the admission from Ms Rudd that “implementation has impacted on people’s ability to eat and feed themselves”.

The People’s Assembly Fife works with those suffering due to the transition to the new benefit.

Chairman Tam Kirby said: “We had one individual who had not had rent arrears for many years and all of a sudden he ended up owing hundreds of pounds.

“Another person who was already in arrears saw their arrears sky rocket.

“People are applying for an advance payment while they wait five weeks, then they have the double whammy of rent arrears.”

Those already repaying arrears under an agreement with the council, he said, were seeing their payment plans disrupted as they transferred to Universal Credit.

Benefit sanctions were adding to despair for many, he said.

“We had a man in Glenrothes who was left with £119 for a month and a woman who had £140.

“The Trussell Trust has makes it clear that the rise in use of food banks is directly linked to Universal Credit.”

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