Army mum upset council still charges her bedroom tax after returning previous payments

Tracey Mortimer at her home in Kesgrave.

Tracey Mortimer at her home in Kesgrave. - Credit: Archant

The mum of a serving soldier wants her council to clarify why she is being charged bedroom tax when the same authority previously wrote off more than £800 of charges.

Tracey Mortimer lives in Kesgrave where her soldier son, Luke, returns home from Colchester Barracks at weekends.

People who receive housing benefit and have a spare room have a deduction made from their benefit payments, but parents keeping a room free for a child in the armed forces who returns home are exempt.

However, Suffolk Coastal District Council said in a letter to Mrs Mortimer the exemption does not apply because her son is training in Colchester and hasn’t been deployed overseas.

Mrs Mortimer said after being told when her son joined the army at 16 she wouldn’t be charged the tax when he turned 18 – last September – she got a letter saying she owed £848.68, to be deducted from her benefits.

She said: “He still has to come home. I was really upset. It left me in arrears on my rent.

“I could have lost my home. If it wasn’t for friends and family to bail me out I wouldn’t be there now.”

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However, after appealing the decision SCDC wrote off the payment – but still wants to deduct the tax, worth 14% of her net rent, in future.

“If they can write that money off why are they still charging me 14%?” said Mrs Mortimer, who also lives with her daughter Laura, aged 15.

Richard Kerry, Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet member with responsibility for housing, said: “We always work with the individual to ensure they get the full amount of benefit they are entitled to, within the current legislation. If they are unhappy with a decision, they can appeal and request an independent tribunal hearing to review the situation. However, we would urge the customer to speak to us, so we can work out a solution.”