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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Protesters in Carlisle call for 'bedroom tax' u-turn

People across Cumbria are starting to feel the effects of the ‘bedroom tax’ almost four months after it was introduced, it is claimed.

Bedroom protest photo
Jen Tunnicliff-Crichton at the protest

Campaigners gathered in English Street, Carlisle, to call for a Government U-turn over the controversial legislation, under which tenants in social housing face a cut in benefits if they have spare bedrooms in their homes.

Around one hundred people joined the protest on Saturday, organised by Carlisle Axe the Bedroom Tax, an umbrella group of organisations and individuals.

Organisers have predicted that the situation will get worse in October once housing benefit is paid directly to claimants rather than to landlords.

Under the legislation residents have to pay extra on top of their rent, something campaigners fear will leave more people in arrears because they cannot afford the higher rent.

In Carlisle alone 1,181 people will be affected by the policy, Copeland will see 1,766 hit while 1,553 in Workington will feel the effects as well as 883 in the Penrith and the Border constituency.

Brent Kennedy, one of the protest organisers, said he had heard of one Currock mother with a 10-month-old baby who had been affected by the benefit change since April.

He said: “They’ve been wanting bedroom tax off her – they’ve said until he’s one-year-old he can sleep with her. Is she supposed to downsize for a few months?”

Patricia Threlkeld, a 52-year-old from Lund Crescent, said she was unable to work because she suffers from a hereditary lung condition which affects her breathing.

She said: “I am in a three-bedroom property and my kids have all left home now. I am having to pay for two of the bedrooms. I am losing £48 per fortnight and I am just on £75 per week.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right that they are doing it. They are taking money off the poor. It’s making it difficult for me to live, the stress, it’s either pay that or eat.

“I’ve had to go to food banks because I couldn’t afford to live. I felt so degraded having to go there. It made me depressed.”

Jonathan Elliott, 34, from Denton Holme, said he was also having to pay extra rent and added: “I’ve had to cut back on food and other stuff like that. I think it’s wrong to penalise the wrong people – the disabled and vulnerable.”

Laurie Heslop, a 45-year-old from Morton, said her 14-year-old son attended a residential school and his room had been classified as empty.

She said: “It’s £13 per week for his room but I am hoping for an exemption – I still need that room for him at weekends. They are saying it’s a spare bedroom but it’s not – it is used.

“It’s an unfair tax and they are getting at the poor and the vulnerable. I feel that I have to chose between my family or to downsize.”

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