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Anger over Cornwall Council's "offensive" newsletter to housing tenants

By CG_News  |  Posted: January 06, 2014

  • Josiah Mortimer with the newsletter

Comments (33)

CORNWALL Council has been labelled “idiotic” for what one tenant described as a “patronising and offensive” newsletter - sent out over the festive period.

The Cornwall Housing newsletter was posted to all council tenants – and contained one article entitled ‘pay your rent before it’s spent’.

It described how there had been 29 possessions proceedings for non-payment of rent and eight evictions, telling readers “please don’t be one of these” statistics.

Josiah Mortimer, who lives with parents Alison and Dave at their home in Truro, said he and his family were angered by the newsletter, describing it as “really idiotic”.

“It is really patronising and we were offended by it,” said the 20-year-old York University student.

“Tenants don't expect to be insulted by the council their rent supports"’”

Mr Mortimer, who is studying journalism in York, contacted Cornwall Council and called for a response on social networking website Twitter.

The county authority released a statement on its website on Thursday, explaining the publication of the article.

“The article was intended to remind tenants of the importance of keeping on top of their rent payments over the festive period,” it said.

“We know this can be a very expensive time for people and the article offered advice to anyone who was experiencing financial difficulties and contained important messages such as a reminder to tenants in east Cornwall that we no longer give two ‘rent free’ weeks at Christmas.

“As well as managing the council’s rental properties, Cornwall Housing has responsibility for tackling homelessness – we have seen first-hand the consequences of people not budgeting correctly and prioritising their debts.

“It was certainly not our intention to patronise our tenants in any way and we are sorry if some people have interpreted the article in this way.”

However, Mr Mortimer said Cornwall Council has not apologised for the article but only if some readers interpreted it incorrectly.

“Their statement is no sort of apology – they are basically saying look what our silly council tenants have interpreted from our newsletter - that’s worse than the offensive newsletter itself,” he said.

“I am calling for a full apology for the council; we’ve had nothing from them – the only contact we’ve had is through Twitter. I just think the whole way it has been handled by the council is a disgrace.”

Mr Mortimer said he was also unhappy at the banking advice provided by the council on the issue of rent payments with no mention of Cornish credit unions or ethical banks.

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  • K-Toronto  |  January 07 2014, 6:35PM

    Hello Bob, I am so ahead of you. ;) I am waiting for results of more intensive DNA testing for that Cornwall family of mine, to try to figure out why they seem to have faked their surname a third time (in reverse chronological order) now! Both they and the family in the US that matches, genetically, left Cornwall during the big exodus of the mid-1800s, that family to Michigan and mine to London first and then all over. My gr-grandfather born in Cornwall was loading things on the docks in Poplar while his sister was sitting on a 50-acre estate with her rich husband. Ya can't pick yer ancestors. The husband did go bankrupt shortly after, though ... Cornwall is no stranger to economic problems, that's for sure. I did find the Guardian article you referred to, after some googling (you read the Guardian?!), http://tinyurl.com/pcjgjcd and it referred to the decline of tin mining -- what brought people to my family's last location in Cornwall, the Callington area, and left them, as the Guardian puts it, high and dry. And were I ever to follow my dream, I would be just another outsider pushing housing prices up, in this century. Your point about moving out of social housing and leaving it to those more in need -- this, of course, is the whole point of universal programs like the health care we have: that they are provided for everyone, regardless of need, and so everyone has a stake in them. Do you give up your dinner so someone more in need can have it? Would you want to be told you should give up your good publicly funded health care so someone else could have it? (Of course, you could then afford faster sleeker health care, and not be as interested in, or in paying for, what the people you gave up the publicly funded health care for are getting. That's why we don't have two-tier health insurance in Canada, and why my mum, along with the low-income immigrants and socially marginalized people in the waiting room with us, got the NHS care she did in north London in 1994.) It is not the fault of anyone who lives in social housing that there is not enough to go around. Here in Ontario, that is dealt with by the rent structure -- at a certain point, if you are paying "market rent", you can do better on the private market. But if you can't -- and yes, if you aren't like that gun hoarder in Toronto who rented a subsidized unit just to store his massive gun collection in (and got away with it while he lived in Florida, until somebody broke in and stole them and people ended up dead) -- you should not get fingers pointed at you any more than anyone else who does not give up something essential that they have because somebody else needs it more. I am still bemused by the two types of criticism of this council coming from two different directions. The self-described left calls the action demeaning to disadvantaged people. The right says the disadvantaged people deserve to be scolded. The left sometimes makes this mistake. African-American public figures in the US have been criticized for raising the issue of the high rates of HIV infection in the African-American population, as if they were trying to stigmatize their community rather than address a genuine problem that others were avoiding. And so on. Yes, the attention is best when it comes from within, and not from authority figures who may sound, and may be, victim-blaming. That doesn't mean that all authorities never have the interests of their audience at heart. I can't speak for the Cornwall housing authority, of course, and this incident may exist in a context that justifies the criticism from the left. So I'll just keep reading and hoping for enlightenment. ;) The lives of other people whose paths one would never cross without the internet -- it can be very interesting to peek in.

  • emurfitt  |  January 07 2014, 12:12PM

    Well done, Josiah Mortimer! We are long overdue for the ordinary man and woman to stand up and be counted. To resist stereotyping and demand their dignity be respected. We have been driving a wedge into the fault line of class for far too long. The result is the class hatred we had seen in this thread. All success with your studies. Hope to see you as Prime Minister in the next twenty years!

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  • Big_Ger  |  January 07 2014, 9:29AM

    What a delicate little petal Mr Mortimer is!

  • Charlespk  |  January 06 2014, 8:59PM

    @BobToronto They have been creating a dependency culture in the UK over many, many years now Bob. The old fashioned self-respect has gone right out of the window. They all know their rights here now. Two of my children have just done Canada Bob. Some wonderful pictures they sent me back. . Cape Bretton, Kootenay Lake, Five Islands, Victoria, Idaho Peak, Nova Scotia, Ottawa, The Rockies,Vancouver. . They can't wait to return. . You are very lucky. http://tinyurl.com/psqztly (try this link also)

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  • BobToronto  |  January 06 2014, 8:09PM

    Glad I am not the only Torontonian who reads 'Thisis Cornwall' If K- Toronto is interested in Cornish family history, the Toronto Cornish Association may be of help. Google them. My lot are from far north of St Columb. From St Gennys in the north to Rock in the south. I spent the first years of my life in Delabole As for council housing in Cornwall read an article in the weekend's 'Guardian on line' about some housing in Camborne/Pool/Redruth area. Nobody would wish to live in such accommodation. However I am sure you are right about some council tenants but how many? If they have the financial means they should move to make room for those worse off. I live in a high rise apartment in Toronto and am very happy. No lawn mowing or snow shoveling!

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  • K-Toronto  |  January 06 2014, 4:24PM

    Oh, btw, I think I rightly interpreted your comments as being aimed at me, not at BobToronto, JeremyBadger. We are quite different, I assure you. Where do comments go when they drop off the bottom of the list? I've been unable to fnd them!

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  • K-Toronto  |  January 06 2014, 4:08PM

    Oh, JeremyBadger, all my apologies. My initial reply was a considered response to the news item here and a number of responses to it. It appears to have wandered afield from there. I feel that the broader political context I raised is not actually irrelevant to the issue, but if I comment further I will be sure to make the connection. My attempt to lighten the tone, which had seemed to be on the way to possibly getting a little sharp, fell flat. I have the greatest admiration for English communities that continue to provide housing assistance for members of the community, much more successfully and diligently than we do in Canada, although there are other places in England where the situation is much like it is in some places in Canada. I did not think that the newsletter sent by the council in this instance was demeaning, nor do I think there is any "cap-fitting" going on, or that any broadbrush demeaning remarks about classes of people who put "lifestyle" before paying bills were warranted here, as they are not generally warranted anywhere. I, of course, was not the first to raise the issue of immigration ... Thanks for the warm welcome for someone who traces her ancestors to the beginning of parish records in Cornwall!

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  • josdave  |  January 06 2014, 3:53PM

    The obvious comment is "If the cap fits". The only ones likely to be offended are those that put lifestyle before paying bills and they need to get their priorities right.

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  • K-Toronto  |  January 06 2014, 2:40PM

    Meanwhile, if I decide to exercise my right to an Ancestry Visa (yes, my grandparents were some of those awful "they" who go and live in other people's countries, although of course they were proper English so that's all right), will I be able to afford a little cottage in Cornwall? That being unlikely (your property prices really are atrocious!), maybe I can interest you in a house swap, all this skiing and skating and assorted other wintry stuff having lost all appeal for me at this point. We are having a warm snap today, and my roof is leaking from the accumulated mountain of snow on it, as more heads toward us ...

  • K-Toronto  |  January 06 2014, 3:42AM

    Haha, Charlespk, if I click that link, will my brain turn to mush and will I march in lockstep? ;) tinyurls are lovely things. I like to know where I'm being sent before I get there. I've never been "away". I am in informed resident of the world, who did visit the UK in 1994, and have occasion to need emergency medical treatment for my mum who was with me. In an NHS hospital in north London. I don't think I would have found a worse situation in inner-city Chicago; it was genuinely appalling, from the start of our many hours there to the end. Blood on the floor and the reception desk, not a cube of ice to put on a swelling head injury (although the doctor, once seen five hours later, did recommend ice). No one who could so much as give me change so I could buy a cold coke from the single machine for my mum's head; I ended up getting donations from the obviously not well-to-do locals in the waiting room with us. Meanwhile, my friend's partner languished in the confines of a new private hospital, enjoying its sunny atrium and ordering from the room service menu, while undergoing tests and generally getting all the health care her heart desired. Ah yes, the glories of Thatcherism, all laid out right there before our eyes. If the medical system in Canada ever fell to a tenth of that dismal depth, we'd have a revolution. I guess you are enjoying that "higher level of influence and leadership in international affairs" ... or at least the pretence of it that the US offered you for doing its bidding and the danger that has brought with it ... (And no, don't take me for a Blair fan; you would be mistaken.) The BBC, now, we do love that in my house. Makes me wish we had 3 times the population we have, and were an ocean removed from our southern neighbour, so we could sustain the same kind of excellence. Oh well; we just have to download it! And having now clicked on your link, all I can say is that at the time in question, I was doing the bar admission course and working to pay the rent and didn't have television, and have not made a study of the fine points of your winter of discontent, and I'm not sure what point you were making anyway. I could trade you "Rae Days" though, if you'd like to google it. All rather far from the issue here, of course, and I don't think you were addressing anything I actually said on that. ;)

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