MP JOHN Healey calls for housing benefit cash to build affordable homes

MP JOHN Healey has called for more homes to be built after figures showed the number of working people relying on housing benefit in Rotherham has doubled in five years.

The 110 per cent hike from 1,727 claimants in May 2010 to 3,631 in August 2014 is one of the biggest rises in the country — well above the national average increase of 66 per cent.

Mr Healey blamed said money spent on housing benefit — which can be paid to people in or out of work on a low income for part or all of their rent — should be used to build affordable homes and pointed out that annual wages in Rotherham have fallen by £4,000 a year in real terms since 2010.

The former housing minister said: “These figures show that David Cameron has completely failed to curb spending on housing benefit.

“Inaction on low pay and high rents has meant that wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs and so more people are struggling to afford their rent.

“The housing benefit bill is also being driven up by the Government’s decision to cut investment and hike rents in council and housing association homes. We should be building homes to bring down the bill.”

Meanwhile, Mr Healey has moved to clarify figures showing he received more than £32,670-worth of “research assistance” from consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But the MP pointed out that the sum shown in the Register of Members' Interests was not a payment but a value of the time spent by a “secondee” on a housing research project to show how switching funds from housing benefits to building new homes would save money.

“As Labour’s last housing minister I got council house building going again on a scale we hadn't seen for 20 years, and I’ve publicly argued the case since then for a massive expansion in councils building homes people can truly afford,” he said.