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Festive advice to tenants branded an idiotic insult

By West Briton  |  Posted: January 09, 2014

  • Josiah Mortimer with the tenants' newsletter.

  • A copy of the newsletter

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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, posted to all tenants, contained one article entitled 'pay your rent before it's spent'.

It described how there had been 29 possession proceedings for non-payment of rent and eight evictions, telling readers: "Please don't be one of these."

Josiah Mortimer, a student at York University 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's really patronising and we were offended by it," said Mr Mortimer, 20.

"Tenants don't expect to be insulted by the council their rent supports."

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

The 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 the council had not apologised for the article, only to those who might have interpreted it incorrectly.

"Their statement is no sort of apology; they're basically saying, 'Look what our silly council tenants have interpreted from our newsletter'. That's worse than the offensive newsletter itself," he said.

"I'm calling for a full apology from the council. We've had nothing from them; the only contact we've had is through Twitter.

"I just think the whole way it's 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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