MP slams Government decision

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has labelled the Government “insensitive and thoughtless” after the family of cancer victim Becky Bell were hit with a bedroom tax blow.

As reported in yesterday’s Hartlepool Mail, Julie and Mark Bell have been told they must start paying the controversial tax on Becky’s bedroom, which is as it was when she passed away after a brain cancer battle in January last year.

Julie, 41, and Mark, 37, were distraught that Becky’s room was being classed as a “spare room” and were backed by town MP Iain Wright who aired his concerns in a letter to the Government.

But in a responding letter, Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, said, while he has “every sympathy” in this situation, the family must pay the tax of £672 every year from April 1.

Town MP Iain Wright said he was disappointed but not surprised by the Government’s decision.

He said: “The Government brings in legislations such as this one and then they wash the hands of the consequences.

“This particular legislation is going to be extremely damaging to so many families in Hartlepool and in this case, given what Mr and Mrs Bell have been through, it’s particularly harrowing.

“And as Mrs Bell so rightly says this isn’t a spare bedroom, it’s Becky’s room.

“It’s an awful situation for Becky’s family and it just shows how insensitive and thoughtless this legislation is.”

Mr Wright, along with Julie and Mark, are working closely with Housing Hartlepool.

The housing association says the new legislation, which will affect both social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefits if they are found to be under-occupying their homes, will have an impact on 1,157 people who live in Housing Hartlepool properties.

Mr Wright added: “What the Government doesn’t appear to realise is they are dealing with people’s lives here, with people’s budgets.

“And people will find it difficult to find this extra money, it’s tight enough already for the majority of residents.”

Julie, who is also a mum of Vicki, 24, and Mark, 13, told the Mail of her “disappointment” when discovering the Government’s decision.

“We weren’t asking for the world,” she said.

“Just a bit more time to grieve for Becky but we now know we are going to get no help whatsoever from the Government.”