Councillors rough it in freezing park to show opposition to Bedroom Tax
Last updated at 11:32, Thursday, 14 March 2013
IN sub-zero temperatures, 13 councillors slept rough to protest against the government’s controversial Bedrroom Tax.
Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn and her Labour colleagues spent nearly 12 hours in Whitehaven’s bandstand on one of the coldest nights of the year.
Benefit changes are due to come into effect from April 1 and will affect around 1,700 households in Copeland.
From next month, people who are deemed to be living in a home with more bedrooms than the Government says they need will have housing benefit slashed by up to 25 per cent.
The Government says this will help cut the £23bn annual bill for housing benefit, free up more living space for overcrowded families, and encourage people to get jobs.
Throughout the early hours of Tuesday morning, Coun Woodburn posted Twitter messages. She wrote at 2.30am that it was very cold but spirits were high.
And by 5am, she said: “...had no sleep but it has been a good night and if it helps just one person it’s worth it.’’
Councillors who took part in the bedroom vigil were: George Clements; Sam Pollen; Dave Reilly; Elaine Woodburn; Geoff Garrity; Phil Greatorex; Gillian Troughton; Allan Holliday and Carole Woodman, (Copeland Council). Wendy Skillicorn and Michael Hawkins (Cumbria County Council) and Chris Ross and John Burns (Egremont Town Council).
At a meeting of Copeland’s Executive on Tuesday, held just over three hours after the vigil, Coun Woodburn said: “The government has given us a pot of £94,263 to give out as discretionary housing payments [to offer financial assistance].
“We now have to play God and make a judgement on people’s needs – we should not be in this position.
“I could talk all day about how appalling this situation is, and I have not heard from anyone who thinks this is a good idea.
“This is so unfair and cruel.”
Coun Allan Holliday added: “This ill-though-out policy could end up costing the government more money, as people who can’t afford their rent could become homeless and it’s down to us to put them up in a B&B and the expense that brings.”
Councillors criticised the amount of money – £94,263 – Copeland has been given to support struggling residents. Coun George Clements said: “This government has just thrown us the crumbs.”
Coun John Bowman added: “This small amount of money is putting a sticking plaster over a large wound.”
Drop-in sessions, for anyone concerned about the housing benefit changes, are being held on Monday, March 18, from 11am-6.30pm, at Whitehaven, United Reformed Church; Thursday, March 21, 11am-6.30pm, The Falcon Club, Egremont, and on Friday, March 22, 11am-6.30pm, at Millom Network Centre.
Louise Barkes, Home Group’s head of customers service, said: “We’ve identified our customers who we think will be most affected by welfare reform and we’ve been working with them for a number of months to make them aware of these changes. These sessions will help anyone who still has questions or needs further advice.”
This week the government announced a partial U-turn on the bedroom tax, exempting foster carers and armed forces personnel who live at home.
The changes will mean around 5,000 approved foster carers will be allowed an additional room as long as they have fostered a child or become a registered carer in the past 12 months.
And also that adult offspring in the armed forces who are away on operations will be counted as continuing to live at home, as long as they intend to return home.
Discretionary payments will be available for local authorities to support other groups such as people whose homes have had significant disability adaptations and those with long-term medical conditions that create difficulties in sharing a bedroom.
First published at 11:24, Thursday, 14 March 2013
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
Their is great understanding and feelings directed towards the many genuine people who will be caught up in this unfair reduction in benefits. Two aspects for our local 'leading lights' to ponder, and, perhaps, share with those of us who be paying for their amateur disregard for years to come:
1. How much are we paying for the PFI funded Copeland Centre per year, how much have we paid since it was built, how many more years will we be paying for it?
2. What is the total expenses bill for Copeland councillors?
Add the two together and what do we have?
Answers please on a piece of paper, however, please don't go to the Copeland Centre for 'a piece of paper' because all the paper has probaby been used up in the form of expenses claims.
When the answer to the first part is offered by the good and the great (collapsing blue faced people will be guilty of holding their breaths) the question must be asked: how could the plight of the unfortunate people of whom this article is about, have been offered help if all this money was not going to a) fund a building, b) give councillors a second income?
Quote of the year from a councillor who retired from his 'day job' whilst mainting his position on the council (reliable source): 'thank god I've retired, I was being hammered with tax when I worked and was being paid by the council as well'. Needless to say, he belongs to the 'Party of the People'. Ah well, George (get it, the author?), are we all really born equal afterall?
I wonder how many of those campaigning against this "unjust" tax, spend all their hard earned benefits on ciggies, and booze?
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