Gran ‘forced to survive on £4 a week’ in two-year row over council house

A mum claims she's been forced to live on £4 a week after waiting more than two years for a new council house.

Veronica Smith, 55, currently lives in a three-bedroom house but has wanted to move to a smaller two-bedroom bungalow ever since her husband died from cancer.

The disabled gran suffers with multiple health conditions which affect her mobility, cause extreme anxiety and leave her at high risk of stroke or heart attack.

Mrs Smith lost her £90-a-month Disability Living Allowance payment more than a year ago and is now running up a £131 utilities debt, Stoke-on-Trent Live reports.

Her three-bedroom Smallthorne council house costs £85 a week – and she receives just £53 a week in housing benefit.

Her discretionary housing payments run out in April and she is also affected by the bedroom tax – a change to Housing Benefit Entitlement that means you will receive less in housing benefit if you live in a council property which has one or more spare bedrooms.

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Veronica said: "I just can't afford to stay here. My husband put a lot of hard work into this house, I like it.

"I just have to do without. I've got in a mess with the gas and electric. If I can afford to put it on, it goes on. If I can't, I do without. I've been left with £8 to live off a fortnight.

"I'm at high risk of a stroke or heart attack, I've got osteoarthritis in the knees and arthritis in the hips.

"I appreciate that two-bedroom bungalows are in very short supply. But it is horrendous duck, absolutely horrendous.

"I've got to stay in Smallthorne because of my anxiety."

Her sister Linda Dudley said:  "She's been put through more anxiety on the back of David's death. She could do without it. I know other people lose people, but at the same time it's another thing on top of everything else.

"My beef has always been that if there isn't a property for them to go to then don't punish someone. Tenants want to get out of the bedroom tax but they can't because of a lack of houses."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council says it experiences a lot of demand for its housing.

Councillor Joanne Powell-Beckett, cabinet member for housing, said: “We always work as much as possible to match residents' requests regarding where they would like to live, however, unfortunately no properties have become available to meet Mrs Smith’s requests.

"We experience a lot of demand for our housing, and have asked Mrs Smith to consider looking at a wider geographical area to improve the chances of getting the accommodation she would like.

“While Mrs Smith is waiting for a property to become available we are working with her to support her with her financial situation.”

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