Welsh council uses Wikipedia to back up bedroom tax
Thursday 9th October 2014
Glamorgan insists disabled dad can fit bed into box room
A Welsh council came under fire yesterday after it was caught sourcing dodgy facts from Wikipedia to enforce the Tory bedroom tax.
Vale of Glamorgan Council has sent letters quoting the online encyclopaedia — that can be edited by any internet user — to at least two tenants hit by the Con-Dem government’s housing benefit cut.
Disabled dad Guy Watts wrote to the council last month to tell them his home’s “spare room” was too small to be used as a bedroom.
And in a surprising reply seen by the Morning Star, council director of resources Sian Davies sent him the “average UK bed sizes taken from Wikipedia” to prove he could squeeze a bed into the box room.
Ms Davies says that, according to Wikipedia, the room is “capable of accommodation a single bed (or bunk beds).”
She added that statutory overcrowding rules mean that — even if the room was too small for a bed — the “occupant could sleep in the living room instead.”
A spokesman for Cardiff and South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax said: “Even a first-year undergraduate student knows that citing Wikipedia is a schoolboy error.”
Mr Watts, who lives with his partner and eight-year-old daughter in Llantwit Major, has been footing the bedroom tax bill since falling ill last November.
The 51-year-old has been working as a painter and decorator since retiring from the navy and had paid full rent for the family’s three-bedroom home since they moved in five years ago.
But he was forced to give up work and claim housing benefit when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in December.
Mr Watts was then stripped of £14 a week — over £700 a year — under cruel Tory bedroom tax rules.
“I have a long-term illness and that money could go to far better use than paying a subsidy back to the Conservative government,” he told the Star yesterday.
“I’m not a benefit scrounger — I’m ex-Royal Navy, I’ve paid my taxes all my life and only recently become ill.
“We were never given the opportunity of looking at just two-bedroom properties because there was no prospect then of a Conservative government getting in and chucking this tax onto people.”
The “spare room” that Mr Watts is being charged for is made smaller by a built-in cupboard and is used by the family as a computer room.
He appealed against the infamous sanction after reading an appeal from Cardiff and South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax in his local newspaper.
The campaign revealed they were also contacted by a second tenant who was shocked to receive a reply sourcing facts from Wikipedia.
Campaign spokesman Alan Short told the Star how a disabled woman living in Barry showed the letter to her daughter, who has just graduated from university.
And he said: “She told her mum that if she’d written this down as an answer during her examinations she would have failed.
“They’re just making up their own rules.”
Vale of Glamorgan Council did not respond to a request for comment.