AROUND 1,700 housing benefit claimants in Torfaen are almost £700 worse off as a direct result of the controversial bedroom tax, according to a Welsh Government report.

It makes the borough among the areas worst affected by the “under occupancy”

tax in the country, according to the report which analysed the impact of UK welfare reforms in Wales.

People on housing benefit in Torfaen felt the full force of the reforms having lost £691 a year on average because of the levy launched last year.

Torfaen Cabinet member for community safety, Cllr David Daniels, said yesterday some of his constituents had to turn to food banks and even got into debt as a result of the introduction of the bedroom tax.

The Labour councillor said: “It’s clear the welfare reforms have had a significant impact on vulnerable people in Torfaen.

“We’re seeing struggling families and individuals forced to cut back on everyday essentials such as food or energy just to make up the shortfall left by an ever- contracting welfare system.”

Croesyceiliog resident Kevin Reeve told us he was being forced to move out of a rented house he has lived in with his family for about five decades.

He was shocked by the findings of the report.

Mr Reeve, 52, of Bryn Eglwys, Croesyceiliog, said yesterday: “I think it’s terrible.

They penalise people who can’t afford to pay. That’s why I decided to move out.”

Torfaen’s biggest social landlord, Bron Afon, indicated that residents affected by the bedroom tax had found it difficult to downsize to due to the relative shortage of small properties.

Chief executive Duncan Forbes said: “It has been quite clear that since the bedroom tax was introduced it has had little impact on the Government’s aim to encourage people who are deemed to have a spare bedroom to move.”

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said yesterday: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform to restore fairness to the system and make better use of social housing stock.

“We have made almost £15m available to councils in Wales to support vulnerable people since reforms were introduced and, last year, councils who needed extra funding could have applied for a share of a £20m reserve fund.

“Already there has been a 10 per cent fall in the number of tenants affected by the policy in Torfaen.”