Welcome for PM’s pledge

Mark a d Julie Bell outside of their Thackeray Road home . Picture by FRANK REID
Mark a d Julie Bell outside of their Thackeray Road home . Picture by FRANK REID

THE grieving parents of cancer victim Becky Bell today welcomed the Prime Minister’s pledge to look at “individual” bedroom tax cases.

Julie and Mark Bell were left devastated when just a month after they lost their precious daughter to brain cancer in January last year they were told that her bedroom would be classed as a spare room under new controversial Government legislation.

This would mean that they would have to pay £672 a year for Becky’s untouched bedroom from April.

But yesterday in Parliament, David Cameron promised to look into “any individual case” relating to the so called “bedroom tax”, as a string of opposition MPs attacked the Government’s plans to cut housing benefit for people in social homes with spare rooms.

The news was welcomed by Julie, 41, who told the Mail: “This is definitely a good thing and that’s what the Prime Minister should have done in the first place.

“I think he’s probably doing it now because obviously families are not happy for whatever reason and they’re making it known, so he’s finally looking at it like he should have in the beginning.

“Each family is different and I’m pleased that he’s saying he’ll do something about it. Hopefully he’ll be able to speak to us and something positive might happen in the future.”

Mr Cameron made the promise, saying: “First of all I will look at any individual case and the Department for Work and Pensions will look at any individual case.”

He added: “Housing benefit now accounts for £23 billion of Government spending, that is a 50 per cent increase over the last decade and we have to address the fact as well that we have 250,000 families in overcrowded accommodation and we have 1.8 million people waiting for a council house.”

Julie and Mark, 37, initially slammed the Government and were supported by Hartlepool MP Iain Wright in the hope they would be given some more time to grieve before paying extra for the room.

But they were given another kick in the teeth when the Government confirmed in a letter to Mr Wright that, despite having “every sympathy for Mr and Mrs Bell’s situation”, they must pay the extra cash.

The bedroom tax, which comes into force from April 1, 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.

Households under occupancy will have their benefits cut by around £13 each week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.