OUTRAGE as council uses strong-arm tactics to enforce hated Con-Dem policy on hard-up householders who have been forced into arrears.
COUNCIL bureaucrats have threatened to kick hard-up Scots out of their homes because they can’t pay the Con-Dem bedroom tax.
Officials at a Labour authority left families terrified by warning them they will be taken to court and evicted if they don’t cough up.
One mum of three was targeted over arrears of just £129.96 – less than a month after the hated tax came into force.
Angela Buskie told the Record:
“I panicked when I read the letter.
“I’ve never been in debt before in my life, but I simply cannot afford the bedroom tax as it would leave me with less than £10 a week for my shopping.
“It will leave me with no money. It could see me on the street.”
Angela’s lawyer says at least seven other people have been threatened with eviction by her local council, South Lanarkshire. And he fears there could be many more.
The council hand-delivered the terrifying letter – marked “extremely urgent” – to Angela at the home in East Kilbride where she has lived for 20 years.
They say she “under-occupies” the three-bedroom flat because her kids have moved away, and must pay £22.08 per week on top of her rent to cover the bedroom tax.
As a result, Angela slipped into arrears by less than £130. But despite the tiny amount, the letter told her she faced losing her home.
It was dated April 30. The bedroom tax only came into force on April 1.
Angela was told:
“If you do not pay, we will take legal action against you.
“This means you could be evicted from your home as well as having a decree (a formal court order) granted against you. You may also have to pay our legal costs.
“If you are evicted for not paying your rent, we can still collect payments for the money you owe us straight from your wages or your bank and building society account.”
Angela’s solicitor, Gordon Dangerfield, was shocked when he saw the letter.
“South Lanarkshire is way further down the road than any other council in trying to evict people.
“They are targeting people who are being put into arrears because they cannot afford the bedroom tax.
“It is as if they can’t wait to get into a position where they can evict people. Other councils have said they are not going to evict anyone for a year.”
Gordon also accused the council of sending out forms which mislead residents over their right to appeal.
“They are clearly trying to tell people they have no appeal and there is no point in continuing with an appeal.
“The truth is that there is a right to appeal – and plenty of good grounds.
“People are being asked to sign a form that either withdraws their appeal, or states that if they want to go ahead, they understand it will have no chance of success.
“I am dumbfounded that the council have put that in an official letter.
“Rent arrears letters have also been sent out just two days apart – and in the wrong order.”
Politicians were aghast when the Record told them about South Lanarkshire’s strong-arm tactics.
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who lives in the area, said:
“All councils run by the SNP have promised not to evict anyone subject to the bedroom tax if they take all reasonable steps to repay arrears.
“South Lanarkshire Council are failing to support the most disadvantaged people in our society.”
Tommy Sheridan, chairman of the Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, said it was “simply beyond belief” that a Labour-led council would hand-deliver eviction threats to bedroom tax victims.
Sheridan is organising a rally against the tax in Glasgow’s George Square on June 1.
An estimated 105,000 tenants across Scotland are being hit by the bedroom tax. They are having their housing benefit docked because the Con-Dems say their homes are too big for them.
But the vast majority have nowhere else to go. Only 20,000 one-bedroom properties are expected to become available in Scotland in the next year.
Other councils have agreed to do all they can to help families, and not to evict them for at least a year.
And there was consternation in South Lanarkshire last night after the Record tackled them about their hard-line stance.
We tracked down the council leader, Labour’s Eddie McAvoy, to his local pub in Rutherglen to ask why his officials were threatening to evict people.
Incredibly, he said he knew nothing about the letters until he was told at 5pm on Friday that we’d asked about them.
And he insisted that, had he known, he would never have agreed to them being sent.
“As far as I know it was a mistake.
“If it is to do with the bedroom tax, they never discussed this with me. I was very surprised any letters were sent out without my knowledge.
“They need to get my agreement because this is a political decision and that should have been done by myself.
“I would not condone warning letters being sent out to any residents regarding bedroom tax arrears.
“I would never have agreed to that.
“We need to give people at least a year to bed in. And if we notice people are getting into arrears we would get them in to give them help and support, not send eviction letters out to them.
“We have employed extra staff to help these people all the way. If people are really trying and are in genuine hardship I would not support eviction.
“We have no plans to hassle people for bedroom tax rent arrears.”
A council spokesman said of Angela’s case:
“This standard letter was sent in error.
“We have been trying to make contact with the resident. When we do, we will explain that to her and offer any help we can with her arrears.”
South Lanarkshire Council have previously been criticised for spending £1million on a legal battle against their own women workers.
The council are still refusing to settle an equal pay case with 3000 staff which has dragged on for seven years.
Last August, we told how the council gave former finance chief Linda Hardie a £106,000 retirement deal, plus £427,000 paid into her pension, after letting her sit at home on her full £127,000 salary for six months.
Public spending watchdogs condemned the council for letting Hardie draw her pay for so long.
Hardie’s department lost £100,000 of taxpayers’ money to a fraudster who impersonated a council supplier. They also made £38million worth of “arithmetical errors” in budget cuts.
20TH MAY 2013
MEANWHILE IN NORTH LANARKSHIRE
UK Labour run NORTH Lanarkshire Council first to send out ’eviction letter’ to disabled man for £50 Bed Tax arrears
The tenant is a single man who has suffered from mental health problems for most of his life. He had NO arrears until the bedroom tax was implemented.
He has asked for a move to a smaller house but there is no suitable accommodation available for him …
Today’s Labour: ‘A Shameful Disgrace’ by Soiniciulacht
Politicians trade jibes as Councils send out eviction notices
A bedroom tax campaigner called on Scottish politicians today to put party differences aside after councils sent out the first wave of eviction threats.
Two Labour councils came in for a grilling as outraged council housing tenants revealed they had already been threatened with eviction, just six weeks after the benefit cuts began.
Since April council and housing association tenants have been stripped of up to 24 per cent of their housing benefit if their home is “under-occupied” – with rules allowing only one bedroom for each couple or individual over 16.
Many councils and housing associations have warned that they don’t have smaller homes for people to move to.
South Lanarkshire tenant Angela Buskie told reporters today she was one of the first people to receive a letter threatening eviction, for rent arrears of £129.96.
Ms Buskie said she “panicked” when she saw the letter.
Making up the shortfall of £22.08 would leave her just £10 a week to feed her three children.
A letter seen by the Morning Star showed North Lanarkshire Council similarly “raising proceedings for possession of the dwellinghouse” of a Coatbridge man over arrears of only £50.10.
North Lanarkshire leader Jim McCabe has vocally opposed the cut, calling it “the single worst piece of legislation I have ever seen.”
But his office today declined to answer the Star’s questions, saying instead that the council remained “committed to working with all tenants to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax.”
South Lanarkshire council leader Eddie McAvoy said the eviction letter was “a mistake.”
Meanwhile local MSPs traded jibes. The SNP’s Linda Fabiani said the South Lanarkshire letter was “disgraceful” while Labour’s Michael McMahon said “hypocritical” SNP ministers were delaying action until after the independence referendum, despite having powers over housing law to prevent the evictions.
The No 2 Bedroom Tax campaign’s Alan Wylie told the Star the SNP did have the power but SNP-Labour coalitions in Edinburgh and Renfrewshire proved councillors could act too.
Politicians who backed the cuts were only proving themselves out of touch, he said.