People’s champion kills himself

 

A PEOPLE’S champion killed himself after emailing a suicide note to a government department which had sent him a £3,000 bill.

Neil Hill, 57, fought a long campaign for hundreds of council tenants who face rent rises after their homes were passed to a housing trust.

He took the case to court where it was thrown out on a technicality with costs awarded against him. He told a friend it was a ‘whitewash’.

Within an hour he received a demand to cover legal fees from Treasury solicitors acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – the Salford MP Hazel Blears.

In his email response he wrote: “By the time you receive this I will be dead, having committed suicide. I hope you feel very proud of yourselves.

“Before you send another poor old person a bill for £3,000 please think of the consequences.

“Perhaps you’d like to explain to my family why I can no longer cope and what your position was in ending my life. I was Malcolm Neil Hill.”

Although the email was sent last Saturday – April 18 – Treasury solicitors did not alert Greater Manchester Police until Tuesday, April 21.

Mr Hill was discovered hanged in his Irlam flat after officers forced their way in.

He sent the message two days after losing the court case in which he has been using human rights legislation to prevent himself – and hundreds of others – being slapped with a rent rise of almost £5 a week.

Rent increases

City West Housing Trust, which owned his flat, announced rent increases well above those of the council and other housing organisations in Salford.

Last month, he obtained an injunction against City West and Ms Blears in an attempt to halt the rise.

The action was brought against Ms Blears too as she gave consent in October 2008 for the transfer of thousands of homes from Salford council to City West.

Last month, Mr Hill, a former truck driver, said after obtaining the injunction: “I am not against a reasonable rise such as £2 or £3 but these figures from City West are appalling.

“It may be all right if you are on benefits, but if you are like me – on a company pension which takes you just over the benefits limit – it will mean having to find £25 a month.

“That is outrageous and monstrously unfair, and an infringement of my human rights. I’m going to fight it all the way.”

Last month the leader of Salford council, John Merry, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ at the City West rent rises.

Mr Hill’s case was heard at Salford County Court on Thursday last week. It was struck out on a technicality .

A barrister acting on behalf of Ms Blears’ department successfully argued that her name should be removed from any action as she did not have a contractual relationship with Mr Hill relating to the rent.

The letter sent to Mr Hill from a Treasury solicitor demands payment of £2,947.

His brother, Terry, said: “Neil has been a thorn in City West’s side for some time. But he was campaigning for many tenants, not just himself.

“I spoke to him on the day of the court case. He said that within 30 minutes of it ending he had received a hand delivered demand for £3,000.

“He lost the case on a technicality. I had been with him at court on two previous occasions. A judge had commended Neil on the way he had conducted his case.

“At every turn he was coming up against the government. They were doing everything in their power to stop him winning.

“He had explored all avenues in this country and was preparing to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Astute

“Neil was sound of mind and very astute. I am appalled at the actions of the Treasury solicitors. He had a good case. I think he could have won it – but they didn’t want him to prevail.”

In another email sent to a friend on the day he sent the message to the Treasury, Neil wrote: “The judged kicked out on a technicality – that my paperwork was flawed. City West did not submit an application for costs so I don’t think they were awarded any.

“She (Treasury solicitor) was awarded costs of £3,000 against me and the case was dismissed as being without merit but I didn’t get the chance to argue my case. I have protested to the judge that I am being denied justice and he just held his hands up. This is a whitewash!”

Niece Suzanne Hill said: “Neil was such a strong and determined person. It is unbelievable for him to be pushed like this to take his own life. He must have been absolutely gutted when he received the bill.”

Terry said: “He was not only campaigning against the government regarding rent increases. He was campaigning against a policy which prevents people who have private pensions receiving a large part of benefits they are entitled to.

“Neil was due £80 a week in benefits due to his disability but received only £14. That campaign, if he had won, would have benefited 230,000 people nationally.”

Mr Hill lived on his own and had moved into his flat in 2003, spending about £12,000 improving the property. 

He suffered from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure and was forced to give up his job as a tanker driver because his health prevented him from getting his HGV licence.

In a statement City West said: “Naturally we are extremely saddened to hear the news of Mr Hill’s passing away. Our thoughts are with Mr Hill’s family at this most difficult of times.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We are shocked to hear about Mr Hill’s tragic death. Our thoughts are with his family. As his death will be the subject of a full investigation at a coroner’s inquest it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.”


 

Comment , it’s a sad day for this to happen we had raised the issue of rents weeks ago, it saddened me personally to hear of this news. Mr Hill needed help and it was found wanting, after the emotion as passed this issue must be discussed in depth and the people who matter his family need answers.

2 thoughts on “People’s champion kills himself

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