Cornwall Council apologises for offensive Christmas newsletter

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks after the ‘pay your rent before it’s spent’ newsletter from Cornwall Council was sent out and received by tenants across the county on Christmas eve. I complained to the council on the 30th about the content of the insulting winter publication and received this statement below on the 7th (after an unsatisfactory online response here).

Thanks to everyone who has followed the campaign and put pressure on the council to act and to treat its tenants with the dignity and decency they respect.

The next step for the council should of course be to refuse to evict anyone hit those hit by the bedroom tax and other welfare ‘reforms’ which have pushed thousands into poverty, and to put a stop to the planned £3-£5 a week rent rises for 2014.

This is a start, though. I’m going to leave the mini-campaign here because I’m mostly satisfied that this is an apology (even if some of the response continues the attitude of the newsletter re. ‘the consequences of people not budgeting correctly and not prioritising their debts’).

(Names have been deleted, and I have made some text bold – otherwise it is verbatim).

Dear Mr Mortimer,

Your Complaint about Cornwall Housing Limited

I write in response to your complaint to Cornwall Housing Limited dated 30th December 2013 which has been passed to me to respond to.

Thank you for your comments regarding the recent article ‘Pay your rent before it’s spent’ in the Winter 2013 edition of our tenants newsletter.

The newsletter is intended to provide information and advice to our tenants on a variety of topics.  The article you refer to was in no way intended to patronise any of our tenants or customers and we apologise if you found it offensive. Cornwall Housing feels it is important to remind all tenants about the dangers of falling into rent arrears and the article offered advice to anyone who was experiencing financial difficulties and urged tenants to contact us if they were struggling.

It was also intended to remind tenants in east Cornwall that we no longer give two ‘rent free’ weeks at Christmas.

The article about possible rent rises was submitted by Cornwall Council. The Tenants Forums had specifically requested that we publish this information as soon as it was available as they believed that tenants would want to know about any proposed rent increases as soon as they were suggested.

With regard to your point about Welfare Reforms, Cornwall Housing and Cornwall Council have taken a proactive leading role in understanding and explaining the Government’s Welfare Reforms and how they affect people in Cornwall and we continue to use the newsletter as a way of keeping tenants up to date with what is happening, though this information may not be relevant to all of our tenants we feel it is important to make everyone aware of the help and support we can offer. We deal with homelessness first hand so know the consequences of people not budgeting correctly and not prioritising their debts.

The newsletter was printed and sent to reach customers before Christmas but some customers received it later than intended because of delays to the postal service. These delays resulted in some copies being delivered during the festive period. This is something we will consider when putting together and sending out the newsletter in the future.

Thank you for your suggestion regarding ethical banks and credit unions, we will try and incorporate this information, if relevant, in future

Once again we apologise for any offence which was certainly not the intention of the article.

I conclude that I partly uphold your complaint.

I am satisfied that this matter has now been dealt with and therefore I will close the complaint from further investigation.  If you feel that your complaint has not been answered or that you have further information to demonstrate that the response is incorrect, you may refer the matter to the Cornwall Housing Complaints Coordinator who will escalate the complaint to a step 2 complaint. [details about stepping up the complaint have been deleted].

Please find (enclosed/attached) a leaflet regarding the complaints process for your information.

Yours sincerely

[Council officer]

Communications Officer

Cornwall Housing

Tel:0300 1234 161

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