His comments follow the publication of a report by the Welsh Affairs Committee last week (Thursday) on ‘The impact of changes to housing benefit in Wales’.
The committee examined two specific policies – the changes related to under-occupancy in the social rented sector, and the move to ‘direct payment’ of housing benefit under Universal Credit.
The inquiry focused on the immediate impact of the reforms in Wales, and Mr Doughty – who is a member of the cross-party Welsh Affairs Committee – said:
“We all want to see the benefit bill come down – but the ‘bedroom tax’ is harming people in my constituency and across Wales. In fact our report shows that Wales is disproportionately affected compared with the rest of Britain – and this is certainly what I see across Cardiff and the Vale.
“It’s creating huge problems for tenants, who are falling into rent arrears and debt as they struggle to make pay the extra costs and still make ends meet.
“I’ve heard from many constituents who are in debt for the first time because of this change. Foodbanks are also reporting a massive surge in requests for help – much of which is due to these ill-thought-through reforms. And this is affecting people both in work on low incomes, and those struggling to find a job in the current economy.
“Many people would accept a move to a smaller home – but there simply aren’t smaller homes available out there.
“Shocking figures provided by Cardiff Council earlier this year showed that in April and May alone, 1,193 council tenants fell into arrears – 871 of whom had not been in arrears before. And with increased collection charges, the policy is putting significant pressures on the finances of councils and housing providers. Cardiff council arrears are already up by nearly £130,000 since May this year.
“We need to reform our benefits system and bring the bill down – but I believe the bedroom tax is neither fair nor will it bring down the costs as the government has claimed.
“I am proud Labour has pledged to repeal this terrible policy, and our cross-party report today only serves to expose the failings in the government approach and the impact on Wales.”
* More than 250,000 people in Wales receive housing benefit – around 8 per cent of the population. The Government’s own figures estimate that 40,000 tenants in Wales will be affected by the bedroom tax policy – representing 46 per cent of working age housing benefit claimants living in the social rented sector. This is the highest proportion of any region in Great Britain.
* Labour leader Ed Miliband has vowed to scrap the bedroom tax if Labour return to government in 2015, telling his party conference last month: “If you want to know the difference between me and David Cameron, here’s an easy way to remember it. When it was the millionaires who wanted a tax cut versus people paying the bedroom tax, he took the side of the millionaires. David Cameron was the Prime Minister who introduced the bedroom tax; I’ll be the Prime Minister who repeals the bedroom tax.”