Cotswold District Council paid out £92,000 last year to help benefit claimants struggling with housing costs.

A leading think tank has warned more action will be needed to help struggling renters, as hundreds of thousands fewer people are employed across the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show Cotswold District Council paid £92,000 in Discretionary Housing Payments during the year to March.

The payments are given to people who qualify for Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, and who are struggling with housing costs.

The Government sets DHP funding for local authorities each year, with councils having to dip into their own funds if demand exceeds their allocation.

Last year, Cotswold District Council spent all of its government allocation.

In May, the Government announced funding for councils across the two countries would increase by £40 million in 2020-21, to £179.5 million, citing “affordability pressures” in the rental market.

Cotswold District Council is set to receive £131,000, an increase of 42 per cent on last year.

Of the total awarded in Cotswold last year, £67,520 went to helping people who were in difficulties because of welfare reforms.

The benefit cap alone led to £13,500 of payouts.

The cap, which was introduced in 2013, limits the total amount of benefits a person can receive to £13,400 per year, or £20,000 for a couple or single parent.

A further £14,800 went to people affected by the so-called bedroom tax, which reduces housing benefits for people with a spare bedroom, and £39,200 because of other welfare reforms, or a combination of the bedroom tax and benefit cap.

In total, 120 payments were made to claimants during the year, averaging £767 apiece.

A DWP spokesman said: “We have provided over £1 billion in discretionary housing payment funding since 2011, enabling local authorities to support households that need additional help.

“Funding is allocated in consultation with local authority bodies based on local pressures and payments are intended as transitional while longer term solutions are found.

“In addition, this year we have increased local housing allowance rates, including the shared accommodation element, benefitting over 1 million households by £600 a year on average.”