Labour frontbencher Rachel Reeves hears about impact of ‘bedroom tax’ in Lowestoft

Rachel Reeves visit

Rachel Reeves visit - Credit: Archant

Furious residents raised their concerns over the so-called 'bedroom tax' in a meeting with a Labour shadow minister as she visited Lowestoft.

Rachel Reeves visit

Rachel Reeves visit - Credit: Archant

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves visited the town yesterday (Thursday, March 26) to hear how the tax had affected the town's residents.

In a meeting at the Aspire Centre in Yarmouth Road organised by Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, Bob Blizzard, she heard from around 15 people currently paying the tax.

Among them was 59-year-old Siggy Erkens, who is a full-time carer for his wife, who has a number of health problems and contracted polio as a child.

The couple live in a specially-adapted three-bedroom house in Minden Road, Lowestoft, with one room classed as a 'spare'.

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'They make us pay for the third bedroom but we use it for storage for things like my wife's bath chair,' he said.

'Her problem is degenerative. It will get worse and she will end up in a wheelchair. Our house is already adapted with lights and sockets at eye height.'

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He said any house they downsized into would need to be adapted - but that the council had not offered them another property, leaving him forced to pay the tax.

'I can't avoid it,' he said.

Beverley Taylor, 62, also told Ms Reeves how she had been hit by the tax.

Mrs Taylor, who has lived on Europa Road for 32 years, suffers from charcot foot syndrome brought on by her type 1 diabetes.

It weakens the bones in her foot enough to fracture and can leave her in so much pain she has to take morphine.

The morphine lowers her blood sugar, which - combined with her diabetes - has resulted in her passing out and needing an ambulance.

Her children stay at her house on nights when she takes morphine and she had a long fight to be exempt from paying bedroom tax on that room.

'I'm lucky,' she said. 'But I still have to pay bedroom tax on my other room. I don't want to lose my home. Just because you're disabled doesn't mean you should have to lose your dignity.'

Ms Reeves said: 'It was a privilege to meet local people.

'I promised everyone that the first thing I'll do as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if Labour wins in May is scrap the bedroom tax.'

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