AN increase in the number of people receiving benefits in Colchester has been attributed to more claimants being counted and the borough’s population growth.

The latest claimant count for Colchester between September and November last year was 2,797, a growth of 11 per cent on the 2,562 figure quoted in 2018.

However, the count, which now measures the number of people receiving Universal Credit, is down by nine per cent on the same period five years ago.

Dave Cope, Essex operations leader for the Department of Work and Pensions, attributed the rise in last year to two factors.

“Universal Credit counts more people than the old claimant count measure and is less accurate on a month by month basis because of the way it works,” he said.

“We don’t regard the increase over the year as symptomatic of anything other than us counting more people and Colchester’s relatively rapid population growth.”

Mr Cope said job vacancies and opportunities remain “relatively healthy” in Colchester.