BOROUGH bosses have vowed to help vulnerable people after it was revealed that cash-strapped Dudley council house tenants owe more than £1.4million in unpaid rent.

Alarming figures released confirmed nearly 550,000 borough households are currently in arrears with their rent.

Now there are calls to scrap the bedroom tax and replace it with a voluntary review.

The situation is causing real concern with borough councillors who have witnessed a rising increase of residents at their surgeries who are struggling to pay the rent.

One of the worst effected areas in Dudley is the Castle and Priory ward where Cllr Ken Finch reported a worrying trend.

He said: "People need to realise the effect the bedroom tax and universal credit is having at grass-roots level.

"Council house tenants are finding it difficult to pay the rent and we need to try and help them.

"The current situation just isn't working, especially in Castle and Priory where it's really taking its toll. It's not just one cut, but many that are affecting people who are really struggling and the situation isn't getting any better.

"I'd like to scrap the bedroom tax immediately and implement a voluntary review system.

"We've got people in the borough living in three-bedroom properties who want to move to smaller premises, but we just don't have the accommodation available.

"We should not be penalising people just because we haven't got the accommodation.

"It would be wrong to say our surgeries are overflowing with people who can't pay the rent, but we are getting more people than we would expect.

"That also applies to the Tenant Associations as well."

Councillor Pete Lowe, deputy leader of Dudley Council, added: "We are doing all that we can to protect vulnerable tenants as far as the law will allow.

"The bedroom tax was a retrograde step, especially with the effect it has made on tenants who we are trying to support."

Around 4,000 people in Dudley are currently on the waiting list for a council property - but nearly 3,500 of them have applied for one and two bedroom homes compared to just 584 seeking three and four bedroom houses.