|Council's "Insulting" Christmas Card Condemned|
H&F's festive message is "Don't overindulge. Pay your rent!"
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has been slammed for sending an "insulting" Christmas card to tenants living in around 17,000 rented homes in the borough.
The card, as shown on the right, features a pound coin fizzing in a glass next to a sprig of holly, along with the message: " Don't overindulge this Christmas. Pay your rent!"
The council says the cards are part of a "hard-hitting" campaign as 46% of tenants are in rent arrears.
Tina Buckley, who lives in a local council house with her mother Mary, told BBC London 94.9: "What's made me so angry is my mum's been a tenant for 60 years.
"She's never been behind with her rent and when we were young and there wasn't much money she'd pay her rent before she'd feed us and clothe us and heat the house.
"Keeping the roof over our head was more important than anything else so to get this disgusting, threatening piece of literature masquerading as a Christmas greeting, it's insulting."
Ms Buckley added that she wants a printed apology in the council's magazine.
Cllr Andrew Johnson, Cabinet Member for Housing defended the card saying:" We want to do everything we can to stop tenants getting into rent arrears.
"It's a very serious issue and the real issue of this double-sided postcard was to say if you are in difficulty give us a call. It would give me no pleasure to evict people in the new year because they're behind on their rent."
He said that eviction proceedings begin when a tenant is £250 in arrears.
Cllr Johnson said he believed the card, which was sent to about 17,000 properties, cost about £2,000 to produce, which "pales into insignificance" against the rent owed.
However, Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter, responded by saying: " To use people's own rent money to send them insulting letters is a new low.
"In the taxpayer funded card, sent indiscriminately to 17,000 households, this out of touch Council effectively accused people of falling behind on their rent due to being too lazy, too indulgent and too simple minded to pay their rent on time.
" This is a shameful way to pass the buck for years of policies from the Council designed to demonise and denigrate social tenants. People who are struggling with rent arrears, many due to the cost of living crisis caused by George Osborne and David Cameron’s reckless handling of the economy and their draconian policies like the Bedroom Tax, need support and guidance rather than to be belittled and sneered at.
" If their figures of 46% of social tenants being behind on their rent are true then it simply shows how poorly the Council are doing their job and that they should spend less time on cheap and nasty gimmicks like this and more time working with tenants to ensure that rent payments are made on time.
" Many families are already facing a grim winter having to make the tough choice between heating and eating. The Council seem set on kicking them when they are down.
" The Council claim this cost them £2,000 but I will be chasing up the full total including postage, design and staff costs."
December 18, 2013