Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Southwark News Column - 20.06.13

Everyone knows that MPs work in Parliament, speaking in debates and voting. But the reality is that one of the most important things that an MP does is help their constituents if they have a problem which they can't sort out.  A major part of my work as MP for Camberwell and Peckham is taking up issues with the council, the immigration authorities and helping constituents with a wide range of problems. It’s about backing them up, sorting out mistakes that have been made by the authorities and cutting through red tape. Here are a just a few examples:

-A very elderly woman from Peckham came to my surgery worried about her next door neighbour's plan to build a cabin in the middle of her back garden. She is understandably upset about this as it would block the light into her own garden which she spends a lot of time in. She doesn’t mind her neighbour building a cabin but it would be better if it was built at the end of the garden where it would have much less of an impact on her own home. Because the neighbour is applying for planning permission, I have asked the council to consider my constituent’s request for a compromise solution to build the cabin where it won’t block the light to her garden.

-A woman from Camberwell contacted me about getting compensation for the damage caused to her bed and carpet caused by a serious leak in her council flat. The leak continued for 14 months before it was finally repaired. During this time, she was undergoing treatment for cancer and the whole episode has left her feeling very upset and stressed.  When the leak was repaired, she submitted a claim to the council insurers to cover the damage but was told that she needed to supply the original receipts for the bed and carpet – which she no longer had, having bought them many years before.  In the meantime, she is sleeping on a bed borrowed from her neighbour and in a room with no carpet. It’s unreasonable to expect people to keep receipts for items they bought a long time ago so I have contacted the council’s insurers to tell them not to nitpick but to look again at the evidence she has submitted and deal with her claim fairly.

 -A 58 year old single mum from Walworth came to my surgery about the ‘bedroom tax’. She lives with her 42 year old son, who has cerebral palsy. The flat is 2 bedroom plus a tiny ‘box’ room - only 1 metre by 70cm - which the council originally said was too small to be a bedroom when they moved in 20 years ago. But now the flat has been classified as 3 bedrooms, she will now have to pay an extra £14 each week for the ‘bedroom tax’. She doesn’t know where the extra money will come from because her income barely covers the rent and bills. I contacted the council and they have agreed to reassess the number of bedrooms.

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