At the recent council meeting the ruling Conservative Group Swindon Council rejected a Labour resolution in support of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group’s proposal that Universal Credit claimants should continue receiving their current benefits whilst their UC claim is being processed. This would prevent them being driven into rent arrears as a result of the ‘waiting period’ when their existing benefits are stopped.

Instead the Conservative Group’s amendment committed them to “carefully monitor” the situation and do whatever was necessary to support people in financial difficulties. In other words they defended the status quo and support stopping tenants’ existing benefits.

STCG is monitoring the situation as well. We have found that rent arrears of council tenants on Universal Credit show a continuing upward trend. As the number of tenants on UC increase so do the arrears. As of the week ending January 26, the number in arrears was 976 out of 1,287. On December 3rd it was 829 out of 1,080. The percentage of tenants on UC in arrears remains above 75%.

The amount of UC arrears has increased from £700,585 on December 3rd to £814,189 out of £1,359,178. That is a rise of £113,604 in less than two months. The proportion of UC arrears out of all arrears continues to rise, reaching 59.9%.

The average arrears for UC claimants is very slightly down but still very high at £834.21.

As more and more tenants go over to Universal Credit it is difficult to see, with these trends, any outcome other than UC arrears continuing to rise. It should be remembered that these arrears are not the fault of individuals but the inevitable result of their existing benefits, crucially housing benefit, being stopped during the period when their UC claim is being processed.

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Secretary, Martin Wicks said:

An increase of £113,000 in rent arrears for tenants on UC in less than two months underlines the fact that these arrears are the result of the ‘waiting period’ when a claim is being processed. With around 3,000 council tenants still to transfer to UC, the potential for increased arrears is a serious problem, not only for the individuals affected, but for the council’s Housing Revenue Account. This is money which is needed to fund maintenance and renewal of existing homes.

The irony of the Conservative Group’s stance is that they did not have to oppose UC to support the motion put to the council. All they had to do was recognise that there is a serious problem resulting from stopping claimants existing benefits. Why does their group support a rule which is driving up housing revenue account rent arrears, and putting tenants under needless stress and anxiety? After all there is little worse than having the threat of losing the roof above your head. As the case of the ex-Honda worker reported in the Advertiser illustrates circumstances can throw you onto the street very easily.

The Conservative amendment to the Labour resolution said they would “take such steps as are necessary to assist people who are in financial difficulties”. Would it not be better to try to prevent them getting into arrears in the first place? The government has done quite a bit of back-tracking as a result of being put under pressure. It can be pressured to stop penalising tenants simply because of the introduction of a new system.”


In April 2017 it was reported to the Swindon Benefit Strategy & Welfare Reform Group that 669 council tenants were on UC and owed £425,000 in rent. This was just 6.5% of Swindon’s council tenants yet their arrears 37% of all arrears.


No of council tenants on UC

Number of UC claimants in arrears

Arrears for tenants on UC

All tenant arrears

% of UC arrears out of all arrears

Average UC arrears

April 2017







December 3rd 2017







January 26th 2018