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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Protesters vow to fight bedroom tax evictions in Carlisle

Protesters have promised to fight any threatened evictions from housing association properties after revealing hundreds backed their petition over the bedroom tax.

Bedroom tax photo
Carlisle protesters Nick Thompson and Jen Crichton

They are calling on social landlords to promise not to evict people who build up rent arrears – but if no such agreement is forthcoming then they will support those who are affected by bringing in so-called “bailiff busters” to support them.

Carlisle Axe The Bedroom Tax handed in a petition, with more than 400 signatures, to Riverside in Botchergate.

Spokesman Brent Kennedy said that a lot of the names had been collected on the city’s housing estates and added: “Ninety five per cent of people are signing the petition which shows the strength of feeling.

“It’s partly the people who are affected themselves who are getting desperate.

“We have heard some desperate, heart-wrenching stories – families are breaking up and the debt is overwhelming.”

Mr Kennedy said that if housing associations could not promise no evictions due to bedroom tax-related rent arrears then they would send inso-called “bailiff busters”, who would act as a physical barrier to prevent bailiffs entering the property.

The new rules were introduced in April and affect those on benefit, in social housing, with unused bedrooms. Victims face moving to a smaller property or risk losing part of their housing benefit.

Paul Taylor, Riverside’s assistant director of operations in Cumbria, said that they were “very concerned” about the impact of benefit cuts on tenants and the business.

He added that they had campaigned against a number of aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill.

“This included the under occupancy charge, which will affect 7,000 Riverside tenants nationally at an annual cost to them of £5m,” he said.

“We are working with affected tenants to help them manage their finances in challenging times.”

Riverside says it is also trying to pressure MPs into changing the definition of the under-occupancy charge to cut the numbers affected and free up some larger properties.

Carlisle City Council no longer owns housing stock.

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