The BBC reports that Hammersmith and Fulham Council claims that “tenants” have found “disgusting” and “offensive” a card sent out urging them. They manage to come up with two. There was Tina Buckley – who is a prominent left wing local activist – and her mother.
I represent hundreds of council tenants in this borough – none have complained to me.
But the Labour MP Andrew Slaughter was quick to take to the airwaves (slipping in the false claim to LBC presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer that the cut in spare room subsidy applied to pensioners.)
Oddly the BBC have not featured other councils who have been running similar campaigns. Labour-run Luton Council is sending out the festive message to their tenants that if they don’t pay their rent they will lose their homes. Cllr Tom Shaw said:
“Most people are feeling the economic squeeze at the moment, but please make paying your rent and council tax a priority over Christmas and New Year and don’t risk losing your home. Pay up or seek help immediately before allowing debts to spiral out of control so we can cut the eviction rate, as well as our arrears bill.”
Or here is this message from Mark Henderson, Director of Housing of Wolverhampton Homes, which manages Labour-run Wolverhampton Council’s housing stock:
“Tenants who fall into arrears risk losing their home so the best gift anyone can give at Christmas is to make sure they’ve got a roof over their family’s heads. Christmas is such a busy and expensive time and at a time when so many people are struggling, it’s more important than ever for tenants to prioritise paying their rent.”
Cllr Sharon Blank of Labour-run Chesterfield offers the same firm warning.
All this is common sense. It combines a warning with a number to ring for advice for those in difficulties. Those tenants who manage to keep their spending down to avoid rent arrears are hardly likely to be offended by the clear message. They would be more likely to be annoyed at the notion that those who don’t pay their rent can get away with it.
The fact is rent arrears do increase over Christmas. It is reasonable for councils to try to avert this as much as possible and to avoid the costs of legal action. It is false kindness to ignore problems of rent arrears and delay taking action until the situation is out of control.
Why do the BBC present this as a great controversy regarding Hammersmith and Fulham but not mention Labour councils doing much the same?
I fear it might only add to the suspicions some hold of a left wing bias in the Corporation.