Phone win for ‘bedroom tax’ campaigners

Walsall people needing to contact the council’s housing benefit helpline for advice on the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ can now do so without worrying about excessive phone bills, thanks to a successful campaign by a Willenhall councillor.


Cllr Coughlan in Walsall town centre collecting signatures.

Cllr Coughlan in Walsall town centre collecting signatures.


Councillor Diane Coughlan has welcomed Walsall Council’s decision to switch help and advice lines from 0845 to 0300 numbers for housing and council tax benefits information.

The decision came after Cllr Coughlan highlighted the fact that those on benefits or low incomes were paying between 14p and 40p per minute if they contacted the council from a landline, and possibly more if they used a mobile phone.

Cllr Coughlan and her Labour colleagues have been running a public campaign against the ‘bedroom tax’ which has included braving freezing temperatures and snow showers in pyjamas to collect signatures for a petition opposed to the tax.

Labour councillors successfully moved a motion against the tax at the last full council meeting with support from members of all parties.

Cllr Coughlan said: “I welcome the fact that the Council has answered my concerns and made this change. The number of people needing to contact the council for help and advice is increasing as unemployment keeps rising and changes to welfare benefits such as the bedroom tax impact on the vulnerable and low paid.”

“Under the old system, a call centre was paid for each call they took and as many enquires required people contacting them several times, residents ended up paying more and more for the help they needed.

She added: “In Willenhall alone we have over three hundred households that are affected by the bedroom tax and those families will need all the advice and help they can get. They shouldn’t be put off asking for that advice by the cost of contacting their council.

“It’s pleasing the council has listened and acted. This change will help thousands of low income families across the borough but it needs to go further as disabled residents needing to contact Social Care are still being forced to use an 0845 number I have asked officers to look at this..

 The new number for housing benefit and council tax advice is 0300 555 2855