A TEESSIDE council is to pilot a shake-up in housing benefit.

Under the plan, scheduled for autumn, private tenants living in Middlesbrough will receive a flat rate of housing benefit, set locally.

Landlords and tenants will know in advance how much they will receive.

If tenants want to move to a cheaper property, they can keep the difference. And if they choose to live somewhere more expensive, they can make up the difference. Larger households will get higher allowances.

The Government says not only will the changes bring about a simpler and fairer system, but no tenant will lose out. Some will be better off.

Middlesbrough is one of ten councils across Britain chosen to pilot the scheme.

Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith said: "This is an exciting opportunity for Middlesbrough Council to lead the way in bringing in this new housing benefit system. It will be a better deal for private tenants and landlords, making it easier for people to move from welfare into work.''

The Pathfinders scheme will run for two years and if successful, will be introduced nationwide.

Most payments will in future go to the tenant as opposed to the landlord.

The benefits service in Middlesbrough is managed by HBS, private sector partners with Middlesbrough Council in a ten-year £260m partnership.

HBS Northern managing director, Tim Lonsdale, said: "We're very pleased to be a pathfinder. The changes we'll be piloting in Middlesbrough will make for a clearer, fairer system, for landlord and tenant and that has to be supported.