NEARLY half of the tenants affected by the so-called 'bedroom tax' in Barnsley have been pushed into rent arrears - making the town the 17th worst affected in the country.

The figures were obtained by online campaign website False Economy through a Freedom of Information request.

It shows out of 2,600 tenants affected in the borough, 1,120 have been pushed into arrears.

The release of the figures comes as Labour pledged to axe the so-called tax, which is a cut in housing benefit for those in council or social accommodation who are deemed to have a spare bedroom, should the party win the next election.

But campaign leader Fran Postlethwaite said people cannot afford to wait that long.

"We cannot wait 20 months for the election to happen. People are struggling now and we need the council to say they will not evict anyone who falls into arrears because of the bedroom tax."

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher backed Labour's pledge.

"Many of us in Barnsley have been campaigning against the bedroom tax, so this is great news," he said.

"With 43 per cent of the people in Barnsley affected by this unfair tax pushed into arrears, it's clear that repealing it is absolutely the right thing to do."

Barnsley Central MP, Dan Jarvis, said: "We have seen usually financially prudent residents fall into rent arrears.

"It unfairly penalises residents who use their so-called 'spare room' to help their wider family with childcare, or separated parents who have shared parenting, or disabled people who need extra space for medical equipment."