A disabled man claims he is facing eviction from his council flat over falling behind on rent payments.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, has blamed the Bedroom Tax for getting into financial difficulty and could be made to move in just over a month.
That’s if Your Homes Newcastle, an organisation which manages council homes across the city, decides to evict him from his flat in Westgate Road.
The potential eviction follows the loss of the tenant’s housing benefit.
Though it was reinstated, a shortfall caused by the bedroom tax was not paid, meaning his rent arrears have continued to rise.
The man appealed his eviction yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court in a case which will be heard again in 42 days. It will allow him to reapply for benefits that will enable him to pay his rent and reduce the level of arrears, according to the housing provider.
Following the hearing, he was joined at Todd’s Nook Tower on Westgate Road by fellow tenants and activists in protest of the proposals.
The man, who suffers from anxiety which worsens his arthritis, said his life has become dramatically worse since the situation began.
“This situation has made everything worse for me. The anxiety causes so much pain in my body and makes my arthritis even worse. It’s a massive downward health spiral.”
He added that the situation had left him unhappy in his own home, where he has lived for almost a decade.
“I now hate being in the flat, I want out of it. The memories created by the way the council have treated me sicken me. There’s no way I can be happy here,” he said.
He said that the extended 42-day window before the decision is made on the eviction will give him more time to involve disability activists in his case in a bid to save himself from eviction.
Campaigner James Bell, 23, from Whitley Bay, attended the demonstration has offered support and advice to other tenants being hit by the tax.
Mr Bell said: “He’s come out and given support to people who are going through this. He’s been consistent to opposition to this.”
Tradesman Richard Hartfield, 34, from the West End of Newcastle added:
“We’re putting the unity back in community. He’s helped others in need and we’re to return that.
“I’ve been in that situation a few times, it’s about having other people there that you can go to for advice. We’re here to defend the man and his rights.”
Your Homes Newcastle said eviction was only an option in the most extreme circumstances and that the situation has arisen after attempts to engage with the man failed.
Director of tenancy services Neil Scott said:
“Since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013 we have made every effort to assist any tenant who has been affected and offer support to enable them to meet their rent payments.
“Eviction action has been an absolute last resort where we have exhausted all other avenues or where tenants have refused support from us.”
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said:
“The council social housing provider Your Homes Newcastle has an excellent track record in supporting tenants who find themselves facing financial difficulties. We would much prefer to work with those at risk to help them avoid losing their homes. Clearly this does depend on the tenants being willing to cooperate in the process.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Nov 2014
Parents have staged a protest over a council’s ‘history of horror’ cuts to services.
Children dressed as witches, ghosts and ghouls marched into a councillors’ surgery in Newcastle’s West End as part of a demonstrate over cuts to 20 Sure Start children’s centres.
Vanessa Cutter, from group Parents Against Cuts, said:
“Nick Forbes needs to attack Central Government and say to them, if you’ve got money to spend on redeveloping the city train station, then there should be money for Sure Start.
“The cuts that are being implemented are going to impact on so many families. The Sure Start centres are such an important resource for people. Parents Against Cuts is not prepared for them to close.”
Newcastle City Council’s Labour leader Nick Forbes needs to make a £5m reduction in funding for the service after its Central Government grant was reduced.
He is also contending once again with a significantly reduced revenue support grant from the Government which has previously led the council to cut libraries and arts funding.
Angry parents were hoping to confront Coun Forbes about the cuts but were greeted by his Westgate ward colleague Coun Geoff O’Brien.
Following the disruption at the surgery meeting at St Matthew’s Church, off Westgate Road, on Saturday Coun O’Brien blamed funding cuts from Central Government and said:
“I fully support the parents.
“The last thing we want to do is close down really good public services like Sure Start.
“I’m pleased they are protesting and there should be more people doing it across the country.”
Throughout September, the council consulted with families to try and come up with a new way of trying to maintain Sure Start Services with a reduced budget.
They have decided to pursue a model that would help 1000 vulnerable children, and spend £635,000 on targeted support services for children and families.
This means more children can be helped than was previously planned, however the future of all 20 current Sure Start centres is still under review.
Council projects like Newcastle Central Station come from a different source of funding, and it would not have been possible to transfer money to Sure Start.
Vanessa Cutter, who organised the protest, said many of the items used in the demonstration and fancy dress were used to represent services the city council has cut since 2010.
“We took along a paddling pool to represent money for the swimming pools being cut, we’ve took books to represent the cuts to libraries and bin bags to represent the bins that will be cut.
“We are looking at Nick Forbes’ history of horrors and set up a Halloween party in his surgery.”
Newcastle City Council has announced it must save £90m over the next three years on top of £151 already cut since 2010. It’s reduction in funding from Central Government has been significant with less money coming in to the revenue support grant, while cost pressures, particularly of an ageing population, continue to rise.
Vanessa said she has used the Sure Start centre in North Fenham for her children Freya, seven, Isabelle, five, and Niamh, two.
“Surely Nick Forbes’ job is to fight the Government. He talks of this £38m that has been chopped from the budget but we want to see him fight,” she said.
A city council spokesperson said:
“We know that people would prefer there to be no cuts whatsoever and we feel exactly the same way. However, the removal of government grants and the overall financial position of the city council, has left us with no alternative but to make savings in every area of our work.
“Our consultation presented people with three options but, once we collected and analysed the views of 5,000 people, a fourth option emerged. Earlier this week, our Cabinet approved the creation of new and innovative Community Family Hubs, incorporating Sure Start Children’s Centres, and with intensive support to families. The hubs would focus on those 30% of communities with the highest level of deprivation – the widest level of coverage the council can afford. At the same time the council will also continue to invest in other services targeting families with other particular needs.
“Detailed planning of how these hubs and other services will be configured, and where they will be located, will be discussed in a further phase of consultation before the council agrees its final budget position in March 2015.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014
Up to 400 English Defence League supporters joined forces today (Saturday 17 May 2014) to march through Newcastle.
The event started at 1pm in the Bigg Market, snaked along Collingwood Street, on to Westgate Road, along St James’ Boulevard, on to Barrack Road and into Leazes Park.
The procession was led to the beating of a drum and chants by its members.
Supporters draped in Union Jacks and St George’s flags were hemmed in by lines of police.
The far-right group arrived at Leazes Park to the sounds of a DJ in the sweltering heat.
And from the bandstand they listened to a string of speakers.
Police wearing high visibility jackets flanked the crowds and in the park they carried riot helmets in case of any trouble.
Joining in with the march were people of all ages, from pensioners to mums with their toddler children.
Wendy Angel, from Newcastle, who has been an EDL member since 2011, was an event speaker. She said: “There are more than 300 people here today. It’s great to get this support.”
Ian Crossland, from Sheffield, who is EDL’s South Yorkshire regional organiser, said: “We have had fantastic support. This is just a regional demo and over 300 have turned up. Last week we had a national demo in Rotherham and 700 attended there. We want to get our message across to the general public.”
> And your message is what exactly ?
Hundreds of police lined the streets were the march took place. Across the city officers could also be seen.
Anti-fascist group Newcastle Unites made a counter protest as they marched through the centre. The two groups were kept apart as Newcastle Unites started their march at the City Hall before going along John Dobson Street, on to New Bridge Street, along Blackett Street and ended up at the Monument where they held speeches.
Once the EDL were in Leazes Park, Newcastle Unites members marched along Gallowgate to Barrack Road where they held a static protest.
The EDL then marched back to the Bigg Market where the event finished.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Nick Forbes, said: “The extremist views of groups like the English Defence League have no place in a modern, welcoming city like Newcastle where everyone regardless of colour, creed or ethnicity is treated with respect.
“Their presence here is a huge concern to businesses and communities alike.”
Chief Supt Laura Young, Newcastle Area Commander, said: “As expected it’s been a busy day in Newcastle and I’d like to thank members of the public visiting the city centre and those who work and live here for their patience and cooperation today.
“There have been a number of events across the city, all of which have passed safely and with minimum disruption. All marches passed off smoothly and there have been no arrests or reported incidents of disorder during any of the events.
“Newcastle is a vibrant city and we get thousands of people coming in every weekend to enjoy everything the city has to offer and I’m pleased they felt able to do so today.
“We are expecting a normal busy Saturday night and officers will be on patrol as usual across the city. The city has a lively night life and this is something we are well used to policing. “
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 May 2014