THE number of people in Barnsley who have paid all their rent arrears following the introduction of the so-called 'bedroom tax' has risen by 17 per cent since April.

There are 2,700 tenants in Barnsley affected by the 'tax', which is a reduction in the amount of housing benefit people living in social housing receive if they're deemed to have a spare bedroom.

The latest figures from Berneslai Homes show 947 people had completely paid off the outstanding amount by November 20, while only three per cent of people still owe all of it.

Mark McGee, director of housing management, said: "Three per cent of people haven't paid anything, but 97 per cent of people are trying to pay something - of which 80 per cent of people have paid more than 75 per cent of what's due.

"The bottom line is that people are finding it very difficult but are trying to pay something.

"We always knew people would try their hardest to pay. We've given people a lot of information and advised them what their options are.

"Rent arrears have gone up a bit, but it's not just because of the bedroom tax. There's real pressure on households across the board, particularly for those who are in work or receive little or no housing benefit, because of things like rising utility bills and low wages."

Of the 37 rent arrears cases heard in court last month, only two involved the bedroom tax.

A suspended possession order was given for one, and the other was suspended for 56 days to seek an extension of discretionary housing payment.

Of the 2,700 people affected by the bedroom tax, 15 per cent said they wished to downsize.