By Angela Haggerty
A Pollok woman who was evicted after the Bedroom Tax left her struggling with rent arrears is back in her home under a new tenancy agreement after anti-Bedroom Tax campaigners intervened.
Shock reverberated around Glasgow and wider Scotland this week when a young widow with a teenage son, became the first person in Scotland to be evicted as a result of the controversial Westminster policy.
Despite Glasgow Housing Association initially insisting that the eviction was not a result of the Bedroom Tax because Ms Shearer had also been struggling with historical rent arrears, the housing association relented after emergency talks involving the anti-Bedroom Tax Federation on Friday.
A statement from the anti-Bedroom Tax Federation said: “On Friday morning, a picket was assembled outside the house of around 20 people in order to prevent it from being boarded up, while the woman was accompanied to the meeting by a representative of GLC [Govan Law Centre] and Gail Morrow, secretary of the Federation, to a meeting with senior management of GHA.
“After a morning of tense negotiations, the woman was let back in to the property, after agreeing a payment plan with the HA [housing association]. Part of the agreement was that it would be a new tenancy so the eviction wasn’t stopped, but the fact that the woman now has a roof over her head should be claimed as a positive resolution.”
Pressure mounted on the housing association when news of the eviction emerged after campaigners rallied to help Ms Shearer and the Citizens Advice Bureau spoke of its “shock” at the move from GHA. After Ms Shearer’s eviction, SNP Councillor Jim Torrance described finding her outside her home hours afterwards in a state of shock, and according to the anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, she was forced to spend the night with her teenage son in a hotel.
Margaret McIntyre, manager of Greater Pollok Citizens Advice Bureau, spoke of her fears that the Westminster tax had now reached the stage where local authorities were being forced to proceed with evictions.
“I am shocked and disappointed that Glasgow Housing Association has been forced take such ruthless action at a time when people are struggling to cope due to welfare reform and benefit cuts,” said Ms McIntyre. “We are seeing the true extent of the effects of the Bedroom Tax, with the most vulnerable in society. This young woman, a widow with a teenage son, and people who are disabled, are bearing the brunt, of brutal cuts, making their lives even more difficult when they are on a low income and struggling already.”
Despite being able to claim an anti-eviction victory, the anti-Bedroom Tax Federation warned that others are facing similar crises and said their work will continue in the fight against the policy.
“Without the political pressure of the Federation, and the help of the Govan Law Centre, this case could have had a very different outcome,” the statement said. “Unfortunately this case was not unique, with thousands of people facing mixed arrears, both Bedroom Tax and historical, and these cases will be coming in front of sheriffs all too often.”
The Bedroom Tax has been widely criticised and strongly condemned by campaigners and organisations representing vulnerable members of society since its introduction in April this year.
In May, a 53-year-old mum of two, Stephanie Bottril – who suffered from an auto-immune system deficiency illness – took her own life and left a note blaming the government. After the Bedroom Tax hit, Ms Bottril told neighbours she “couldn’t afford to live anymore”.
[Newsnet Scotland comment – This episode should serve as a reminder of the disintegration of the Labour party in Scotland. Hours after a woman with a teenage son was forced onto the street freezing in energy and oil rich Scotland, the so-called ‘peoples party’ went into hiding.
Anas Sarwar MP, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, was one of ten Scottish Labour MPs who couldn’t be bothered to turn up for a vote that called for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped. Not only was Mr Sarwar too busy to carry out the duties he is elected to perform, he also failed to turn up for a weekly surgery, apparently too afraid to face angry constituents who had gathered outside his office to find out why their MP had failed to vote against the Bedroom Tax.]