Anti bedroom tax groups demand justice for Margaret
Edinburgh Council tenant Margaret has been denied an exemption for bedroom tax by City of Edinburgh Council despite being clearly entitled - she has overnight carers stay every night. She wrote to the CEC as early as February applying for an exemption. Instead of granting the exemption the Council have been phoning her up threatening she could be evicted if she didn't pay her rent. This is clearly against the Council policy of no evictions for bedroom tax arrears. The stress of this situation has now led to Margaret giving up her tenancy, as she was becoming very ill.
Muirhouse and Pilton anti bedroom tax groups called for people to attend Councillor Cammy Day's surgery at Muirhouse Library on 17 June to support Margaret and other tenants with bedroom tax problems. Around 20 people turned up at short notice, an excellent show of solidarity. This followed ten people accompanying Margaret to the Councillor's surgery on 3 June. People are appalled at her unjust treatment by the Council over the Bedroom Tax.
Such a good turnout shows the strength of feeling against the bedroom tax, now widely regarded as a very unjust cut in housing benefits. The Lothian and Scottish Federations of anti bedroom tax groups are pledged to defend the homes of all tenants facing harassment or threats of eviction from their landlords.
Councillor Day, who is the leading Councillor for Housing, has agreed to meet Margaret to discuss her treatment. Margaret is demanding that the Council apologise and pay compensation for wrongly denying her a Bedroom Tax exemption and for harrassing her to pay rent which she never owed. Councillor Day has admitted Margaret's treatment by the Council was “unacceptable” and we are asking the Councillor to support her demand for compensation.
Read on for a detailed report of the delegation...
Margaret says the stress of the situation led her Doctor to advise her to give up her council tenancy, or she could have a heart attack or stroke. Margaret has serious disabilities and has overnight carers stay overnight so should have had an automatic exemption. Councillor Day has still not given an explanation why Margaret was denied an exemption and suffered such appalling treatment at the hands of the Council. Margaret says she has not paid the bedroom tax but she is still waiting to receive a letter from the Council granting her exemption.
We pressed Councillor Day to tell us if the Council had proper assessment procedures for Bedroom Tax exemptions to ensure no more people with disabilities suffered harassment like Margaret. Margaret receives Disability Living Allowance highest rate so it should have been clear she was very probably exempt. He stated that the system wasn't working properly with “poor communication”between the relevant Council Departments. He admitted that he wasn't sure if the Council had proper assessment procedures but he would find out and report back to us.
COUNCIL HARASSMENT MUST STOP
We insisted to Councillor Day that he had to make sure Council officials stopped making harassing phone calls to tenants threatening they could be evicted –the officials had to follow the Council “no evictions”policy.
We also pressed the cases of three other local residents, who were suffering bedroom tax cuts and, in two cases, their housing benefits had been stopped altogether. Since our group saw the Councillor a fortnight ago one resident, Sally, had had their main housing benefits restored, which is a positive outcome to our action. But another resident, Vince, is still totally deprived of housing benefit, for no good reason.
What's more local residents Alice and Sally, suffering a cut of approximately £9 and £14 per week because of the bedroom tax, have only been paid around £5 per week in Discretionary Housing Payment, leaving a substantial shortfall which they can't afford. The Councillor promised to make sure Vince had his benefits restored and to support Alice and Sally in being paid full Discretionary Housing Payment, agreeing it was an issue of concern if people in need were not being paid full DHP.
INCREASE THE FUND
We also pressed the Councillor to vote for the Council to increase its Fund for Discretionary Housing Payments when it discusses the issue at the Committee meeting on Thursday 27 June. The last vote on this issue saw Councillor Day and his Labour colleagues vote with the Tories and Lib Dems to defeat the Green Party motion to increase the fund. Anti bedroom tax campaigners will present a petition and demonstrate at the Council that morning for the Fund to be increased to meet the widespread need.
The Councillor replied to our question raised a fortnight earlier, stating that the Council was indeed taking Disability Living Allowance into account as income when calculating entitlement to DHP –but he agreed with us that this was wrong and he was pressing for this to be changed so that DLA, paid to meet costs incurred by serious disabilities, was disregarded.
We asked when a start would be made on the much-needed social housing in Muirhouse, much of which resembles a bomb-site after massive demolitions, but virtually no re-building. Councillor Day claimed construction at the site opposite Craigroyston School would start on 15 July, and on other sites by the end of the year.
Finally, we made it clear to the Councillor that it was unacceptable that he does not have facilities to meet with groups at his surgeries –increasingly people are realising the strength of the community lies in people supporting each other. No longer are we prepared to be disregarded as isolated individuals, we will be meeting those in positions of authority as a group to insist they do what is right.
Muirhouse anti bedroom tax group
Contact/ Info 07910 845570 0776 3204906 (both Virgin)