MORE than 600 households in Wyre Forest were hit by the controversial “bedroom tax” in August, Government figures show.

The Department for Work and Pensions numbers also reveal the average monthly loss to the 608 families affected in the district was £61. They show 517 families were under-occupying by one bedroom and 88 had two or more spare bedrooms.

Since April the spare room subsidy, as it officially known, has meant social housing tenants get reduced housing benefit payment for any spare bedrooms. It is the first time official data has been released showing the number of people affected by it.

The National Housing Association, which represents independent non-profit housing associations in the UK, has analysed the figures and called for the “badly designed” policy to be repealed.

Conservative Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier, however, said support was available for those who needed a spare room, such as disabled people who used the bedroom for a carer or dyalisis equipment, and the policy helped free up social housing for three or four-person families living in bedsits.

Mr Garnier said: “It is right that we have welfare and house people but is it right that we pay for something people in private sector housing cannot afford?

“We are saying we cannot justify using taxpayer money to pay for it but if the person wants to finance it they are more than welcome to and it is a fraction of what it would cost in the private sector.”

He added: “There is plenty of money to help people if they want to apply for it.”

National Housing Federation West Midlands external affairs manager, Gemma Duggan, said: “For many affected, there isn’t even anywhere for them to downsize to.

“The Government says discretionary housing payments will help those who cannot downsize but there isn’t anywhere near enough money to go around.

“The bedroom tax is trapping many people in homes they can no longer afford and where they are struggling to pay rents.”