A WEYMOUTH councillor has claimed that Universal Credit is forcing more people into becoming homeless.

Dr Jon Orrell says more people are ending up on the streets since the introduction of the new benefit system in the area a year ago – because of cuts to their payments or lengthy delays.

He was speaking at a meeting of the borough council which heard that more than a quarter of a million pounds will be added to the cost of helping homeless people in the borough this financial year.

The figure, which could reach £260,000, is said to be far in excess of what was expected when budget were set. Some of the additional cost will fall on the local council because of a Government limit on grants.

Dr Orrell said he was pleased the money was being used to help people “but I also regret that we have to spend it…Universal Credit has caused a lot of hardship which has forced people into homelessness,” he told Tuesday’s Weymouth and Portland borough council management committee.

He said that part of the answer was to encourage genuinely affordable homes and said that the borough council, in its final weeks, should do what it could to ensure that the new Dorset Council was making adequate provision to deal with the increasing problem.

Recent legislation means that the council now becomes involved in homeless cases at an earlier stage.

Housing brief holder Cllr Gill Taylor said the spending had been much more than anticipated and said the new Dorset Council ought to be looking at a year on year increase: “It is unlikely to decrease in the next couple of years,” she said,

Council leader and committee chairman Cllr Geoff Cant said that one of the advantages of the new unitary council would be that people across Dorset would, in future, be contributing through their council tax towards helping those who found themselves in need – while up to now the bulk of the cost had been borne by Weymouth and Portland council tax payers.