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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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Volunteers raise £21,000 for those to be hit by bedroom tax

Volunteers managed to raise £21,000 to help those about to be hit by the bedroom tax by sleeping rough overnight at a bandstand in Whitehaven’s Castle Park.

Sleep out photo
Elaine Woodburn, right, and others taking part in the vigil. Picture via Twitter

Copeland council leader Elaine Woodburn, and her hardy band of seven, endured sub-zero temperatures during one of the coldest nights of the year.

She hoped that the vigil would help raise money to help deal with Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s workload which she expected would rise dramatically.

The date of the planned “bedtime vigil” was announced at the same time Labour revealed that 6,147 people living in the county will be hit when the bedroom tax comes into force next month.

It means people in houses with more bedrooms than occupants face a benefit cut or the prospect of moving to a smaller property.

The problem has been compounded by a massive shortfall of available one and two-bedroom houses across Cumbria.

Nationally, the tax will hit 660,000 households and in Carlisle alone 1,181 people will be affected. Copeland will see 1,766, Workington 1,553 and Penrith and the borders 883.

Miss Woodburn posted regular updates throughout the night on Twitter and this morning she posted: “Sleep-out over take long time to warm up. Through changes to members allowances and sponsorship we are able to give 21k to the CAB.”

She thanked everyone who had supported the cause and “all money going to help the most vulnerable who will suffer from the bedroom tax”.

By 11.30pm last night one post said they were “still hanging on” but by 2.30am this morning she commented that it was very cold, but the group’s spirits were high.

Miss Woodburn later posted: “Nearly 5am and had no sleep but it has been a good night and if it helps just one person it's worth it #hatebedroomtax.”

She was joined by fellow Labour councillors Gillian Troughton and David Riley, as well as representatives from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Miss Woodburn said that she feared the Government-enforced tax would mean more hardship for tenants facing benefit cuts for unoccupied bedrooms.

Although Copeland Council sold off its entire 4,000 council houses to Home Group several years ago, it has to impose the tax as it affects those receiving housing benefit.

Lee Sherriff, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Carlisle, took part in a similar event to highlight the problem of homelessness in the area.

She said the tax will hammer families in Cumbria already struggling to make ends meet and could actually risk costing local taxpayers a fortune in higher private rents and covering the cost of driving people out of their homes.

Speaking last week, she said: “Two-thirds of the households hit are home to someone with a disability, and the families of soldiers and foster parents will also be hit.”

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