Bury St Edmunds: Disabled woman asks MP to pay ‘bedroom tax’

Sarah Ashford is pictured at her home in Bury.

Sarah Ashford is pictured at her home in Bury. - Credit: Archant

A CEREBRAL palsy sufferer from Bury St Edmunds has asked her MP to foot the bill for her ‘bedroom tax’ - and claim it back on his expenses - as she says the payments would leave her in hardship.

Sarah Ashford, who lives in a housing association property in Goldsmith Close, has contacted Conservative MP David Ruffley in the hope he will be able to help her out.

The 49-year-old, who also suffers from the disease sarcoidosis, has been asked to pay £12.49 a week as she is “under-occupying” her two-bedroom home by one bedroom, but she is refusing to cough up the cash.

Describing the ‘bedroom tax,’ the mother-of-one said: “It’s a vicious attack on the most vulnerable people in society, especially somebody like me who didn’t have a choice to be born disabled. I was a breech birth back in 1964. I should’ve been born by caesarean and I should’ve been a normal baby.”

Miss Ashford, who is a Havebury Housing Partnership resident, is awarded Disability Living Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit. Previously, she did not have to pay any council tax, but now she is charged £73.49 a year.

She applied to St Edmundsbury Borough Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help towards her housing costs, but the council refused saying “your household income is greater than your expenses and hardship has not therefore been demonstrated”.

But Miss Ashford, who has a full-time carer, said she was being put in a situation where she could not pay her bills. “They are not asking us to move out of these properties, but they are making it difficult to stay.” She said her home - where she has lived for 24 years - had been specially adapted for her needs and her second bedroom was used as a guest room.

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A St Edmundsbury Borough Council spokeswoman said: “Housing benefit is assessed against national criteria and if it does not cover the full cost of the rent it is up to the tenant to pay the difference to their landlord. Separately, the Government cut the money councils have for council tax benefit by 10% so those who previously received a full discount on their council tax bill are also now expected to contribute.

“In St Edmundsbury we ask those who previously paid nothing to pay 8.5% of the total bill – that’s around £1.40 a week for a band B property.”

Mr Ruffley was unavailable for comment.