Alerted by a brief sentence on Radio 4 news early today, many will have been stunned by the news that she had committed suicide on May 4th, and even more by her reasons for doing so – and the fact that, as the Mirror comments,“Stephanie’s death didn’t make headlines locally. But her friends know exactly what happened to her”.

Did the family contact local media before getting in touch with the Sunday papers?

It took eight days for the Birmingham Post and Solihull News to report it, and they only quoted the national coverage.

Stephanie Bottrill of Kingshurst in Solihull who committed suicide in earlier this month left a note saying “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

In the days before her death she told family and neighbours: “I can’t afford to live any more.” She had been told to pay £80 a month extra rent for two under-occupied bedrooms at her home in Solihull, following the reduction of housing benefit to people of a working age in social housing who have a spare bedroom.

Having been was diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis as a child she had to take constant medication and though doctors had told her she was too ill to hold down a job, she had never been registered as disabled or received disability benefit.

The council offered Mrs Bottrill £2,000 to move but she had to use the money to carry out mandatory repairs on the home. She had packed some belongings in boxes, ready to go. However the one property offered to her was miles from her family and friends and had poor transport links, with a 30-minute walk to the bus stop.

Her son Steven told the Sunday People: “She was fine before this bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people living in offices and big houses. They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

There may well have been other ‘contributory causes’ as the Samaritans commented, but the case underlines the need for a new (cross-party?) politics designed to offer equality of opportunity and security to all its citizens – not just the affluent few.

cllrs jc, ss, cw

Can we look to politicians in the region, such as John Clancy in Birmingham, Simon Slater and Chris Williams in Solihull, for the energy, altruism and imagination needed to do this?