THE number of council tenants in rent arrears is increasing – with the authority blaming Universal Credit (UC).

The pattern in Oxford mirrors other areas around the country. In some, one in 12 people are behind on paying their rent after receiving the new welfare payment.

It was introduced across Oxford for people who were making new claims for housing benefit in October 2017.

The percentage of the council's rent collected from tenants fell from 99.4 per cent in 2017/18 to 95.4 per cent so far this year. The council has blamed UC for that rate falling.

UC combines housing benefit, child tax credit, jobseeker’s allowance, income support, working tax credit and employment support allowance into one payment.

It was supposed to make things easier for claimants – but has been beset by delays and recently criticised by MPs.

In a city council document that will be seen by its housing panel next week, it notes: “Universal Credit claimants continue to increase. Waiting periods once a claim is made has also lengthened, contributing to the rise in arrears.

“Universal Credit court hearings are now becoming more the norm, therefore we should soon start to see an improvements on gaining the requested orders we set out to obtain at court – strengthening the chances of recovering the arrears Universal Credit has created.

“Our Universal Credit officer is now strategically using her position by creating strong contacts across the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to help assist with the unpredictable issues that arise in regard to UC claims.”

Elsewhere, figures from Brighton and Hove City Council showed about eight per cent of all its tenants are behind on rent.

Last month, MPs said the DWP was using an 'aggressive approach to collect debts' that 'can compound matters further.'

They said that could leave claimants 'swimming against a tide of unmanageable replacements', 'piling debt upon debt, trapping people in a downward spiral of debt and hardship'.

Despite that, they complain debt advice is 'not routinely offered as part of the Universal Support service intended to help claimants navigate the transition to Universal Credit.'

The city council passed it budget for 2019/20 earlier this month.

At the time, its leader Susan Brown said Universal Credit needed to be changed because the policy was ‘putting people on the streets in the first place.’

Residents can apply for council tax reductions if they are needed.