Labour refuse to comment as critics slam ‘shameful’ Bedroom Tax eviction

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  By Lynn Malone
 
A press enquiry to Scottish Labour and North Lanarkshire Council requesting a reaction to allegations that the Bedroom Tax eviction of a disabled woman was “totally barbaric” and “shameful” has left this reporter bemused.
 
In what can only be described as a game of political ping pong, I was bounced between Scottish Labour’s press people in Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as North Lanarkshire Council as I tried for a response – unsuccessfully.

Newspaper reports about a severely disabled single parent facing eviction from a Labour run council because she owes money in bedroom tax arrears forced the SNP to publicly condemn the action as “totally barbaric.”

Earlier reports in the Daily Record told how Mum of two, Lorraine Fraser, faces legal action and the prospect of being kicked into the street for owing just £248.

The 46-year-old, who is wheelchair bound, suffers from scoliosis and arthritis and lives in a specially adapted flat which the council moved her into two years ago.  Now North Lanarkshire Council is throwing her out.

SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn has condemned the action, he said: “For a vulnerable person to be threatened with being booted out of their home for owing a relatively small sum of money in this day and age is shameful.

“Labour run councils – including North Lanarkshire Council – were given the opportunity to sign The Bedroom Tax Declaration, designed to protect against the less well off against this Tory Westminster tax, but they declined.

“Now we see Labour – a party that was set up to protect the poor – booting disabled people out of their homes and into the street.  It is totally barbaric and Johann Lamont must exert some control of her party by openly condemning North Lanarkshire Council and retract this eviction threat at once.”

I contacted Labour Scotland’s press office to get their reaction and was re-directed to several people before being told no one was available for comment as it was a matter for North Lanarkshire Council.

North Lanarkshire Council’s Media and Public Affairs Manager, Sam Clarke, said: “I’m afraid I cannot respond to your questions. They should be directed towards the Labour Party as these are political issues.”

When contacted again Scottish Labour reiterated but failed to add further comment – redirecting further enquires to North Lanarkshire Council.

Tommy Sheridan, chair of the Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, wasn’t surprised and said: “It is shocking but not surprising that Labour have failed to respond to this disgraceful action by North Lanarkshire Council.  When you have made such a grotesque error as North Lanarkshire Council has done it is no surprise that neither of them wish to properly respond when pushed about who is responsible for such disgraceful tactics.

“Any Labour member with an ounce of decency will be both embarrassed and ashamed at what this Labour council has done to poor and disabled women.  This woman, Lorraine Fraser, is a bedroom tax victim yet she has been treated disgracefully by a Labour council in pursuit of a vile Tory Tax.

“It is time for local authorities and housing associations to declare they will not evict bedroom tax victims for the ‘crime’ of being poor.”

Ms Fraser has been told that she faces eviction and a legal bill despite North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe calling the bedroom tax “the single worst piece of legislation I have ever seen.”

Mr Hepburn added: “What this terrible case in North Lanarkshire makes crystal clear is that the Bedroom Tax is a key dividing issue in the independence referendum.

“The Tory-Labour Westminster No parties are clearly committed to using it and punishing the poor; in contrast only a Yes vote will see the Bedroom Tax abolished.

“An independent Scotland will have its own welfare policy – something which offers a real alternative to the Westminster’s cuts agenda and which will be a major factor in motivating people to vote Yes in next year’s referendum.”