A FORMER businessman left unable to work by a back injury claims he survives on just 99p a day after being hit by the controversial bedroom tax.
Hartlepool man William Ryan, who once employed 10 people in his former town sportswear firm, is forced to eat just two meals per day, a cup of tea and a biscuit for breakfast, and potatoes for tea.
That is all he can afford.
The dad-of-three, who lives alone in a two-bedroomed flat in Tiverton Grove, in the Throston area, says he is also no stranger to sitting under a duvet in freezing temperatures and darkness, when the few pounds he allocates for his gas and electricity meters runs out.
William receives £71.31 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) each week and has his rent paid to Tees Valley Housing with housing benefit from Hartlepool Council.
But since the Government introduced the new welfare reforms – which sees people being taxed on extra bedrooms in their home – he gets £11.83 less Housing Benefit each week, meaning he has to pay the extra out of his ESA cash.
After paying his weekly bills of £11.83 bedroom tax, £1.37 council tax, £12 electricity, £15 gas, £2.98 television licence, £7.20 Child Support Allowance, £5 for travel, £4 for clothing and laundry, and £5 to top up his mobile phone, he is left with £6.93 - just 99p per day.
He says that if he does not use his mobile phone or uses a couple of pounds from the laundry allowance he sets himself he can afford some no-frills basic supermarket food, although the last meat he ate was before Christmas.
William, who suffers with osteo-arthritis of the spine, has asked for a smaller flat with just one bedroom to avoid paying the tax but he has been told there aren’t any available and he has to pay regardless.
He said: “I wish I could work but I’m unable to. I can’t sit for long, stand for long, and I can’t walk far.
“As a result I’m on ESA and now I’m paying bedroom tax because I have a spare room. I’m left with 99p a day for food when I’ve paid everything out.
“I eat potatoes for tea. It’s either chips or mash, or mash or chips. I love roast potatoes but I can’t afford for them to be in the oven for over an hour so I don’t do them.
“I have a cup of tea and a biscuit for breakfast. I don’t have any dinner even though I’d love some because I’m hungry. I just have to wait until my tea.
“Sometimes I rob from my other little allowances, for example I won’t top the phone up, so I buy some eggs or some cheap bacon.
“If the gas or electricity meter runs out I just have to do without, but it is a struggle getting though a night in just darkness without any telly.”
He added: “The Government don’t care though. They just think ‘you’ve done your bit and now you need us we don’t care’.
“I’m just so mad and frustrated about it. I even have a poster in my front window saying ‘say no to bedroom tax’.
“It’s soul destroying. Its a sorry existence and I feel so much anger. I paid my taxes for years and I brought something to this town, I used to employ 10 people.
“I was paying the wages of 10 people, and now this is me, after paying my taxes for all of those years.
“It’s a disgusting story but it’s a real story and I’m far from being the only one.”
William says he does not qualify for disability pay and has been on the ESA for the last four years after never recovering from a back injury he sustained while working as a heavy goods driver for a town haulage firm.
Prior to that he was self-employed with a company called Teesside PA (Public Announcement) and Lighting, and before that was owner of Sportex, in Whitby Street, a local sportswear company.
William, who is teetotal and does not smoke, added: “I use my phone to stay in touch with the outside world for things like phoning the doctors, my brother, and staying in contact with my son. I’m probably on one of the cheapest tariffs with Tesco.
“I don’t have hobbies. I used to like cars, so now and again I’ll go to a vintage car rally with my friends like the one at the Marina the other day.
“I can afford to use a taxi once a week. People might say ‘well why doesn’t he use the bus’, but I can’t because it breaks my back.”
But a defiant William vowed: “I will become good again one of these days.”
HOW WILLIAM’S FINANCES WORK OUT ON A WEEKLY BASIS
From £71.31 per week in his benefit, Williams pays out:
£11.83 bedroom tax
£1.37 council tax
£5 for one taxi ride per week (as William can not use buses because of his back condition)
£4 clothing and laundry
£5 mobile phone top up (which he uses to stay in contact with his son, brother and to phone benefits agencies, doctors surgery, for a taxi, and friends who often help him out with lifts in their cars),
£7.20 Child Support Agency payment for 14-year-old son
Click below to see what Hartlepool MP Iain Wright makes of William’s plight.