Grieving Crawley woman’s eviction due to lack of council homes, says leader

Toni Carter
Toni Carter

The leader of Crawley Borough Council says a grieving Crawley woman is being evicted from her family home because of a lack of council housing.

Toni Carter, 32, is to be made homeless two months after her mother died of cancer. Toni moved back to her childhood home to help her terminally ill mum last April. But Leigh Jelley died sooner than expected in February, which meant Toni was not eligible under the council’s rules to succeed tenancy for the council house in Javelin Court, Pound Hill because she had not lived there for 12 months.

Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate) said: “I understand why this case upsets people, myself included. Crawley has suffered a chronic council housing shortage since the sell-off began in the eighties, it’s a struggle to replace every lost property and the Government keeps making it harder. Until we can build enough council housing to again meet local needs we have to have strict rules, for instance people can only qualify if they’ve lived in Crawley for at least the last five years. The rules may seem harsh, but they’re the same for everyone and it’s the only way we can cope.”

More than 530 people have signed a petition by Toni’s close friends after a council spokeswoman said Toni did not meet residential eligibility criteria outlined in the Housing Act 1985 to succeed the tenancy.

The council’s opposition leader Cllr Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green) suggested the housing succession rights should be changed.

He said: “We should keep these policies under review and make changes if we find from experience that they are not working with an appropriate degree of compassion.

“It does feel a bit feeble for the Council to hide behind an Act of Parliament that is over 30 years old.”

Toni, a flight attendant who commutes to Oxford and has fears over her job security, said she would be homeless because she could not afford to pay private rent after she is evicted on April 11.

Despite living at the house for 24 years before Toni moved in with a friend when she was 28, the council has also said she was not eligible for a two-year temporary tenancy because she had not lived in the home for five consecutive years.

Her grandfather Bill Jelley also died recently, and Toni said she would have to sell household furniture and items Leigh had wanted to pass on to her.

She said: “I just find it quite sad that nobody as a human being seems to be understanding where I’m coming from or even caring.

“I’ve never claimed off the Government and I just feel that I’ve worked hard from 16 for absolutely no reason whatsoever.”

Leigh Jelley was a well-known security guard at the Boots in County Mall.

“People loved her for her honesty,” said Toni.

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