Almost 600 more Watford residents are claiming benefits than last year, new data has revealed.

The town also has the highest rate of claimants across Hertfordshire with 2,790 people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit (UC) in February, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Its data showed that 4.1 per cent of the Watford residents were signing on compared to 3.3 per cent last year, which is above the UK’s 3.8 per cent average.

In Hertfordshire, there are 20,930 residents on the list, and Watford has also seen the largest year-on-year increase with 590 more since February 2023.

Nearby local authorities had lower rates than the UK average, as 3.2 per cent of Hertsmere residents were receiving benefits, while Dacorum and Three Rivers had 3 and 2.6 per cent respectively.

A spokesperson for Citizens Advice Watford said it was a “thriving town” that faced “particular challenges” such as high density, rising rental costs, a lack of affordable housing and areas of poverty. 

They added that its proximity to London brought high costs of living that local incomes may not cover.

The branch helped over 8000 people last year, or 22 a day, and the spokesperson said its frontline staff had seen how residents were struggling to cover basic household costs and getting into debt to get by.

Over the last two year, it has been a 127 per cent increase in residents reporting energy issues, a 129 per rise increase in requests for food vouchers and essential household items, and a 213 per cent rise in calls for debt advice.  

“It’s essential that voluntary organisations, other agencies and the Council work closely together to support residents, sharing knowledge and signposting effectively to enable access to support needed, including mental health support," they added.

“Many people are simply unaware of the help available which they may be eligible for.”

The Watford foodbank operates on a referral system, where people can receive food voucher for the store from organisations like Citizens Advice and children’s centres.

Jane Havlin, Watford foodbank manager, said: "Our numbers are up from last year so we're busier than ever, which is probably reflected around the country, and the donations are not meeting the demands that we're getting." 

She added: "Rising cost of living, bills, and food prices mean everybody's got less money so if you're bottom of the scale so to speak, you're going to find it tougher."