Category Archives: Uncategorized

Squeeze the tenant dry – the latest cunning landlord stunt?

Last weekend  the Guardian ran a piece about social landlords response to Universal Credit. They want their tenants – and note the possessive language they always use their tenants, which is why a tenant can never be a customer as they are captive and can’t move – to make additional rent payments to be one month in advance.

Let me put that into some perspective reader as aside from tenants struggling to even keep up with rent due to the bedroom tax and benefit cap and a range of other welfare cuts this would mean the UK’s housing associations sitting on about £1.68 billion of tenants money.

4.2 million rents at an average of £400 per calendar month is £1.68 billion which is what social landlords want to squeeze out of their tenants.

Notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of tenancy agreements are weekly tenancies and tenants need to be a week in advance, social landlords are seeking to squeeze the tenants for a further 3.33 weeks of rent between now and UC coming online or in other words paying lip service to their own tenancy agreements as legally binding contracts!

£1.68 billion!

Yes – and to use the Tory language for them – the subsidised housing sector who are subsidised to the tune of £1.125 billion per year now want a further £1.68 billion in subsidy from their tenants.  Or put another way for every 2 new homes they bring to market from government subsidy they now want their tenants to give them the money to provide 3 new properties for every 2 the taxpayer gives them.

What a novel way to treat the tenant as the easiest form of finance.  The government wont give us the money – in fact the coalition cut it in half – so let’s treat the tenant as even more of a cash cow!!

capital funding

Above as you can see the coalition cut the subsidy down from £2.1 billion per year down to £1.125 billion  (the £4.5 bn is over 4 years) or almost in half.  Then Incompetent Despotic Shyster launches Universal Credit which seeks in his words to bring those on benefit in line with those in work by paying them a month in arrears hence panic by social landlords.

Aside from the fact that nobody appears to have challenged Incompetent Despotic Shyster on the fact the workers are paid half monthly in arrears half monthly in advance, IDS’s plans really do UC up social landlords cash flow and sustainability and of course come on top of the halving of capital subsidy….yes that subsidy of £1.125 billion per year that produces a saving of over £4 billion per year through lower rents and forces social housing to accommodate all the SODS (Sick Old Disabled Supported) that the great God of the market, the private rented sector refuse to accommodate.

And why haven’t social landlords sold those points…oh silly me that’s called marketing and lobbying…move on Joe!

Of course as much as social landlords may WANT social tenants to increase payments now to be a month in advance in time for the great UC up of IDS’s welfare reform crusade – yes that one that even his own government refuse to sanction (oops irony!) as it is so ill-considered – tenants have a legally binding tenancy agreement to be one week in advance not 4.33 weeks or a month in advance.

Still landlords trying to milk the social tenant leaves a sour taste in my mouth…oh sorry THEIR tenants…you know the ones they like to call customers!!

The Guardian article mentioned a few more cunning stunts that landlords seeking to make one of which I reported on yesterday in that they may have stolen up to £27 million of tenants money which could end up costing then double that at about £55 million – so just another one of their cunning stunts and yet another example of the wonderful customer service ethos they have!

What a brilliant business strategy this is eh reader?  Antagonise and severely piss off the customer you have taken for granted for decades just ahead of the very same ‘customer’ taking full CONTROL of the payment of rent with direct payment of housing benefit to the tenant and not to the landlord.  What hare-brained buffoons inhabit the senior management of social landlords. What near-sighted incompetents think this is a good business idea!

The same buffoons constantly remind us of how prepared they are for the welfare reforms and how considered their responses are to it as of course the great and the good of social housing are immune to any form of criticism!

Isn’t Universal Credit that much of a cock-up already without social landlord responses like this making it so much worse…for social landlords? Then again place three shovels against a wall and tell the landlords to take his pick is enough to bamboozle their business brain eh!

Rant over? Yes for now. But I doubt this is the last cunning plan from the cunning stunts in the lead up to tenants taking CONTROL over the payment of rent do you reader?

Have landlords ‘stolen’ £27m from the bedroom tax tenant??

Have social landlords ‘stolen’ £27.65 million from their bedroom tax tenants?

5 months ago in March 2014 I take a bedroom tax appeal case for a tenant.  The case wins as two of the purported bedrooms were too small and the council (Wirral MBC) pays the bedroom tax back to the tenants landlord (R).  This was the case I reported on here in which the council’s presenting officer told the landlord they had a nerve to call the property a 3 bed property.

Wirral council also paid some DHP to the tenants landlord in 2013/14 and despite admitting in writing that the council has no legal basis to claw back these DHP payments it sends an invoice to the landlord for them to pay the DHP back to the council.

The landlord should refuse to pay this request for a number of reasons.  Firstly, this is not an overpayment.  Secondly, the councils has no right to claim this money back.  Thirdly, the landlord would be paying the tenants money to the council without any authorisation from the tenant to do so.

The circumstances in which a DHP is recoverable 

dhprecovery

If the landlord R pays the councils invoice the tenants rent account will be debited with this amount and the tenant who is rightfully expecting the credit on her account to be paid to her will have no cheque forthcoming from the landlord – the landlord who will have paid the tenants money to the council and without the tenants consent and paid it back to the councils despite the council not having any lawful entitlement to this money back.

Or in simple terms the council is a sneaky bar steward and the landlord is an incompetent bar steward and the tenant is just the poor bar steward being shafted.

If the landlord has indeed paid the DHP monies back the council then they must also credit the tenants account with that money too as they have no right to pay the tenants money to the council.

Also if Wirral MBC has received DHP monies back from 2013/14 financial year then it must pay this back to central government as it is money not spent within 2013/14 financial year – which of course begs the question why did Wirral MBC seek to recover this money in the first place!!  That also means all the ‘moral’ arguments that a tenant should not benefit from the pre 1996 loophole (ie cock-up) and that DHPs could then go further to other needy cases is fundamentally flawed too.

What a mess!

Of course should the tenant not receive her monies back, so she can at least afford to put the heating on this winter which she couldn’t do last year and her health suffered because of it, then I will be taking this case up with the landlord on her behalf and naming and shaming that landlord here (here there and everywhere to be exact).

So landlord R it’s up to you to decide.

To all other social landlords sent invoice by their councils for DHPs paid to tenants do not pay them.  If you have already and many of you will have done with pre 1996 cases then I will be coming after you too.  As I say above the councils do not have a right to claim back DHPs paid to a successful appeal case or a pre 1996 case so if you are one of those landlords not only have you paid this money back, you are also going to have to pay that money back to your tenants account and issue any credit should the tenant ask you for it.

Why social landlords didn’t take 2 minutes to ask themselves is the council entitled to this money back in the first place beggars belief.  To merely assume the council must have a right to ask for it or merely assume that a DHP is recoverable in the same way as a hB overpayment is chronic ineptitude by social landlord rent teams.

Apart from this costing landlords double the incompetence of landlords not knowing the regulations on DHP it will also cock-up and invalidate any possession actions you have taken against tenants too.  Yes that’s further cost to social landlords but yet again brought on themselves by their incompetence.

Let’s stay on the costs and look at some numbers.  If all of the 40,000 or so pre 1996 cases had full DHPs paid from 1 April 2103 to 2 March 2014 and all landlords paid this back to councils the amount involved could be as much as 48 weeks x £14.40 x 40,000 cases – or £27.65 million.

The £14.40 per week is the national average bedroom tax cut in 2013/14 and the average pre 1996 is then 48 weeks of this or £691.20 above means if your landlord has paid your council this £691.20 to the council it also needs to pay back £691.20 to the tenants rent account.

The landlord can they try to get this back from the councils but not without a fight and if they hadn’t made this hasty error in the first place then they would not have to do this.

If I am right that the landlord has no right to pay tenant money back to councils and I am certain this is the case then landlords owe the tenant up to £27.65 million which they need to pay back into the tenants rent account as well.

For the landlord this means the bedroom tax DHP has up to a £55.3 million cost as the original £27.65m returned to councils together with the same further £27.65 million to tenants rent accounts!  Ouch!!

If you are a tenant who has won an appeal or a tenant who got back the pre 1996 money your council wrongfully deducted AND your landlord has returned a DHP in error resulting in that money taken out of your rent account then it is time to demand that money back from your landlord.

The DHP was awarded to the tenant rightly and claimed by the tenant in good faith and these DHP awards were correct and not made in error.  The error was in the HB decision not the DHP award and hence no claw back is possible under regulations.

In summary a chronic tale of DWP incompetence (pre 1996) local authority incompetence (pre 1996 and original bedroom tax decisions) and now landlord incompetence (returning the tenants money without any right or authority) and a costly one which won’t be borne by tenants despite them being the easy target for DWP. LA and landlord!!

Pre 1996 and appeal winning tenants should get a full rent statement from their landlord and if they see a payment going out and back to council then you need to be telling your landlord to put that amount back into your rent account. Then ask in writing for any credit back whilst remembering that as tenancies are a week in advance a balanced weekly tenancy is one that has you one weeks rent in credit and a monthly tenancy one with one months rent in credit.  Over and above that it is your money and if asked your landlord has to return it.

UPDATE

Over the weekend the Guardian ran a piece of Universal Credit stating landlords were asking tenants to make extra payments as UC payments will be received monthly in arrears.  This is linked to the above when it says:

In one case reported to the Observer, a tenant who was owed £362, after having paid the “bedroom tax” by mistake, was told by Town and Country that the money would not be reimbursed as it was in her “best interests” for it to “remain on your account” pending the introduction of universal credit, at an unknown future date.

What a landlord view of the ‘best interests’ of the tenant is has nothing at all to do with the legal position.  Any credit is the tenants money and landlords churned out such excuses not to repay this money such as the ‘best interests’ line taken by the landlord above.  I thought such bad and offensive practice had stopped but given the above Guardian article and the telephone calls I had today with the winning bedroom tax tenant it would seem not to be the case.  

Apart from anything else the landlords who do this are just creating more risk of arrears as their reputation with tenants goes down the toilet and when UC comes in with its direct payment of HB to the tenant such landlords will find ‘their’ tenants remembering all such dirty tricks and de-prioritise the payment of rent even more.  When I have long advocated that landlords should be supporting tenants to appeal the bedroom tax and rightly that the landlord wins too as rent levels stay the same and HB goes up and a back payment of HB is due – it also means tenants will make the payment of rent a higher priority when direct payments comes in to such forward thinking social landlords who do support tenants to appeal now.

Bedroom tax decision of all bedroom tax winning decisions? Just maybe!!

If you are separated from your children and you have a bedroom in your property where your child / children comes to stay and sleep you will be deemed as having a spare bedroom and hit with the bedroom tax. OR SO WE ARE TOLD

You will have been told that the child who lives with the parent who gets Child Benefit is the only one able to have a bedroom. OR SO WE ARE TOLD

NOT ANY LONGER!

A bedroom tax decision by a judge with a known expertise in human rights issues – and the tenant tells me the case was delayed and set aside for this experienced judge too – says:

“The Tribunal was satisfied it is possible, legally, for a person to occupy more than one place as their home at the same time.”

Note well this judge in a 13-page Statement of Reasons of very cogently argued judgment is well aware of leading cases of Swale, TD and Humphreys so this is not aberrant decision and he goes on to conclude on this successful Article 8 decision after much discussion of the issues that:

The Tribunal therefore finds that Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights requires the Tribunal to interpret ‘occupies the claimant’s dwelling as their home’ as including children like A who have regular staying over contact with their parent.  It is a matter of fact and degree as to what applies in a particular case but, for example, in A’s case it is a weekend once a month and blocks of time during all holiday periods..”

After a bit more discussion about approached to determining the issues the judge says:

The Tribunal is satisfied this test has nothing to do with who receives Child Benefit.

The above selective quoting is because it is taking some time to anonymise the full 13 pages of this Statement of Reasons and I will do so and publish them in full shortly and add to the bottom of this piece.

I have also deliberately included the references to Swale and TD and other leading cases to demonstrate to the HB experts and legal experts who read this that this is no ill-considered decision.

However I need to explain to the many tens of thousands of tenants and others who are not likely to be aware of the huge legal complexities of such an Article 8 challenge and to discuss what this decision means in simple terms.

Details

Father has 2 boys from 2 relationships and lives in the North East.  At the time of the bedroom tax decision his eldest son then 15 and a half lives with him in a 3 bed property.  The third bedroom stores the tenants weights and other stuff.  His son from a previous relationship lives in Scotland yet comes to stay one weekend a month and during school holidays for weeks at a time and this younger son considers he has two homes.  The 2 boys see themselves as brothers and both mothers are happy with the arrangement too – so credit to all involved.

However HB regulations being a blunt instrument only ‘allows’ for a person to occupy one home and so Dad is hit with a 14% deduction which the judge finds correct when the decision was made – and again emphasising that bedroom tax decisions are to be made on fact at the time the decision was made not 5 years before of what they may be in the future – yet says that in August 2013 the eldest son turned 16 and thus from that date the tenant is entitled to 3 bedrooms – 1 for himself, 1 for his adult son and 1 for the younger son who lives in Scotland (too) and is with dad one weekend a month and regularly for weeks on end in the school holidays.

This gives hope to every separated set of parents who share custody of their children and please excuse the expression but the absent father can have a bedroom counted for his visiting child or children.  There are tens of thousands of bedroom tax affected households in this situation being charged the bedroom tax for what they rightly see as their child’s bedroom.  Many view ‘human rights’ in a very simplistic moral context to say my human rights and that of my child are being taken away with the bedroom tax. – an argument that to now has in legal terms been a bit iffy to say the least (the Swale, TD and other cases I mention above).

Many councils have said also in crude simplistic terms it is only the parent who gets Child Benefit who is allowed a bedroom under the bedroom tax, not the ‘absent parent.’

YET this decision changes that and should encourage every ‘absent parent’ hit by the bedroom tax to launch an appeal on similar Article 8 grounds.

Some readers will recall another such judgment back in February that is similar from a case in Liverpool I reported here.  This was also covered on the Nearly Legal site (here) which rather put the dampers on it as there Giles Peaker and Peter Barker cited the Swale and TD cases etc.  I read these leading cases and still held an outside chance that because these ‘leading’ judgments were made without the huge difference the bedroom tax makes – that is the HB cut severely which hinders the absent parents financial ability to provide a bedroom for his or her child.

I commented to that effect below the Nearly Legal report on this, as did the knowledgeable Ruth Knox who I know well – and we both know the tenant in the Liverpool case too (and P I have lost your number and mine has changed so email me as I wanted yo to be the first to know of this.)

Yet the real praise needs to go to the tenant who took this case himself and what an absolutely fantastic job he did.  His tireless efforts have now produced a hugely significant decision that will benefit a huge number of ‘absent parents’ who have contact with their children…as long as they get off their backsides and appeal!

The DWP is bound to appeal this decision as they are appealing every decision it seems, so if you are a separated parent then get your appeal in.

The tenant thanked me for my help today yet I did nothing and this is all his own work and my respect for his efforts is huge.  One last point.  This tenant did all of this work and won on an Article 8 ground when many experts thought this unlikely.  This case is bound to be appealed to the Upper Tribunal and that tenant will require pro bono help from a barrister when this case is appealed as it undoubtedly will and I would think that will come to pass as I am aware that such representation has been achieved for the room size and usage lead case of CH/153/2014 which is great news for all bedroom tax winners too.

This was a decision of Judge Moss whose decision in Sunderland case SC236/13/02942 is rightly admired as being wonderfully argued and cogently articulated on the primacy of fact above all else and a decision that all admire and many say is appeal proof.  Yet this case given how important this is will be given permission to appeal as it is of huge public interest and not just because SSWP Iain Duncan Smith will once again spit out his dummy when he reads this…Bloody judges eh!!

I will get the anonymised 13 pages up as quick as I can.

UPDATE Saturday 15 August – The statement of reasons is here 

 

 

Bedroom Tax – huge INTER and INTRA regional impacts

When anyone asserts that the bedroom tax does this or does that they are talking through their backsides!!

  • No MP or ANY political party
  • No social landlord wherever they are based
  • No Chief Executive of any social landlord
  • No housing lobby such as CIH or NHF
  • No journalist whether in the Guardian, Telegraph or Inside Housing
  • No tenant
  • No housing consultant / campaigner / activist / blogger (ahem!!)
  • Not even the most reputable research organisation or think tank such as JRF et al…

…can say definitively that the bedroom tax impacts are X Y or Z and this is due to the massive and hugely different impacts from London to the North West (INTER regionally) and the massively different impacts within regions (INTRA regionally) such as this simple table of FACT reveals.

The table is a simple one I devised in ten minutes from yesterdays official release of the Housing Benefit data which says how many households are affected by the bedroom in each area.These are the official figures and the official FACTS

One quick point of the many this simple FACTUAL data reveals is that in the North West we see:

  • 1 in 11 social housing tenants hit by the bedroom tax in Blackpool YET
  • 1 in 2 social housing tenants in Copeland hit by the bedroom tax

Staggering differences occur all over the country in every region that has to mean the chances of downsizing or any other bedroom tax impact is RADICALLY different not just between regions or inter regionally but within each region or intra regionally.

  • In the North East we see twice as many affected in County Durham as in Darlington
  • In Wales its 1 in 7 in Conwy yet 1 in 3 social tenants in Blaenau Gwent
  • In Scotland 1 in 7 in Perth yet 1 in 3 in West Lothian
  • In Yorkshiire and the Humber its 1 in 9 in Harrogate yet almost 1 in 3 in Doncaster
  • In the East Midlands its 1 in 11 in Blaby yet almost 1 in 3 in Corby
  • In the South West there are twice the number hit by the bedroom tax in North Somerset than in Bournemouth
  • In London its just 1 in 20 in Westminster yet almost 1 in 7 social tenants in Lambeth
  • In the South East its just 1 in every 16 social tenants in Mole Valley yet 1 in 5 in Basingstoke

btinterintraregionalmay14

The above data reveals so much more and so many more areas of investigation such as why did LB Westminster with the lowest percentage of bedroom tax affected households get the highest amount of DHP per person?  And so many more.

However that’s for another time and I’ve kept this very simple just to demonstrate that nobody can be definitive as to the bedroom impacts as they vary significantly INTRA REGIONALLY and impact very differently from one council to its next door neighbouring council

Time to rethink the bedroom tax once again reader!!

*********************************************************

UPDATE 14:30PM 14th August

In response to a number of responses on Twitter I have added another figure below which is the percentage of social tenants hit by the bedroom tax in Inner London.  Inner London has the lowest variance of any region ranging from Westminster at 5.17% to Lambeth at 13.32% yet even in this region with the LOWEST variance the marked intra regionally differences are significant.

The table below shows Haringey at 9.81% and Southwark at 12.10% and the significance of that is may not seem great yet in the amount of money that is taken out of each of the inner London boroughs in bedroom tax it is very significant indeed.  In Haringey it is £2.13m yet in Southwark with almost an identical number of overall HB claimants at circa 37,000 the figure is £3.78 million per year.

Thus a seemingly small percentage difference of 2.29% between Southwark at 12.1% and Haringey at 9.81% translates into a £1.65 million per year difference.

So imagine what this means for areas with a large percentage difference intra regionally and take two metropolitan councils in West Yorkshire in Wakefield and Kirklees.

  • Wakefield has 30,064 HB claimants of which 28.32% hit with the bedroom tax and £3.98m is taken out of the local economy due to the overall bedroom tax cut
  • Kirklees has 33,117 HB claimants so more than Wakefield yet it only has 12.32% hit by the bedroom tax taking £1.57m out of the local economy.

So the actual impact in money terms is more than double in Wakefield as it is in Kirklees and reveals a hugely significant difference.

ilbtmay2014

 

 

4 POOR YEARS, 4 POOR YEARS – Housing Benefit under the coalition – a time to stir!

Today sees the release of the official Housing Benefit figures from the DWP and these record the figures up to May 2014 and the first four years under the coalition. Snapshot is:

  1. Overall HB bill is now £24.11 billion up from £20.87 billion in May 2010
  2. June 2010 coalition says it will reduce HB bill by £2 billion yet it has increased by £3.24 billion meaning the total HB bill is £5.24 billion more per year than the coalition promised the welfare reforms to HB of LHA caps, benefit cap and the bedroom tax would achieve
  3. May 2010 cost of Housing Benefit to those in work was £2.90 billion and four years later that cost is now £5.13 billion per year.

Time for a closer look at just how bad these figures are for the coalition and, for once dear reader, we can read some FACT about Housing Benefit from the DWP’s own hand. Let’s start with the 3 highlighted points above 1. The overall bill

  • The figures show at Table 4 at cell C80 that there are 4,985,741 HB claimants.
  • The figures at table 5 at cell C81 that the average each receive is £92.69 per week
  • Simple multiplication reveals the total HB cost is at May 2014 £24, 113, 196,250 or £24.11 billion

2.  Actual -v- Promised The May 2010 figure was £20.87 billion devised as above by multiplying 4,751,526 claimants at £84.20 per week average. In the July 2010 issue of HB Digest published by DWP we see: -

The Chancellor announced a package of Housing Benefit (HB) reforms in his Budget statement on 22 June. It is the most significant and comprehensive reform programme for HB since the scheme was introduced in the 1980s. The background is the budget deficit and the reductions in public expenditure that the Government is making to tackle it. Ministers are clear that the overall cost of HB,forecast to be around £20 billion this financial year, must be controlled and reduced. The package of reforms will save nearly £2 billion by 2014/2015. There are also important policy considerations around fairness and work incentives that lie behind the reforms”

The package of HB reforms comprised various LHA reforms, the benefit cap and the bedroom tax with the aim of reducing overall cost of the Housing Benefit bill by £2bn per year meaning the governments own target was nearly £2 billion savings on the then £20.87 billion HB bill, or a target of £18.9 billion by 2014/15 – or today. The overall HB bill is £24.11bn or a cost of greater than £5 billion more per year than the target – or a cost of £5bn more than IDS said his great ‘reforms’ would achieve. 3.  Housing Benefit to those IN WORK The same quote above says “There are also important policy considerations around fairness and work incentives that lie behind the reforms” – Though I don’t suspect the amount of Housing Benefit paid to those in work increasing from £2.9 billion in May 2010 to £5.13 billion in May 2014 was what IDS had in mind!

  • Table 6 of the official HB release today at Cell E80 has 1,058,569 HB claimants in work
  • Table 7 of the same at Cell E82 say they each received £92.96 per week in HB
  • Again multiply the two to get the £5.13 billion per year figure

In May 2010 there were 650,551 in work claiming HB so since the election and under IDS’s watch the number of those in work claiming HB has risen by 408,018 working families. More correctly, risen by 408,018 HARD working families as surely that overused political term the ‘hardworking’ family applies much more to those working full time and receiving a wage so low they qualify for full Housing Benefit. Full housing benefit?  YES – the working family receives more on average at £92.96 per week than the overall average HB in payment per week of £92.69 for all HB claimants. The cost of HB paid to working families at May 2010 was £2.9 billion (£85.50 to 650,551 claimants) and so this has increased by £2.23 billion per year since the election and increase of 77%. The taxpayer is subsidising low wage paying employers through Housing Benefit by £5.13 billion per year.  That is what these figures say.  That subsidy has increased by £2.23 billion per year under the coalition watch. To put this subsidy to employers into context the only time we usually red of housing benefit and subsidy is that social housing is subsidised housing, it is only cheaper than market housing because it is subsidised and other barbs thrown at the social housing model and the social tenant. Yet social housing has received £4.5bn of subsidy from this coalition over four years or £1.13 billion per year.  Contrast that with the £5.13 billion subsidy the low wage paying employer gets from Housing Benefit. Employers get £4 billion per year more in subsidy than social housing! What frankly annoys the hell out of me is that the spin and sophistry that goes on about welfare reforms (sic) such as reducing HB and the bedroom tax, benefit cap and LHA reform which were all introduced to reduce the HB bill.  The FACTS show this has not worked. A year ago I published a blog to say that working families on HB had broken through the 1 million mark which they had as the official figures show (see Table 6 E69) that in July 2013 there were 1,006,191 working claimants getting HB.  Yet only a week or so ago and some TWELVE MONTHS AFTER THE FACT we see the national media and the House of Commons Library and the Labour Party all saying that SHORTLY the number of working families would pass the one million mark! This errant report from the House of Commons library and picked up by Independent and others and Rachel Reeves for Labour said: -

According to the House of Commons statistics, 478,000 people with jobs claimed housing benefit in 2009/10, rising to an expected 962,000 this year. On current trends, the number of claimants will increase by a further 276,000 to 1,238,000 in 2018-19. The cost to the taxpayer has climbed from £2.2bn in 2009/10 to £4.6bn this year and to a projected £6bn in 2018-19.

All of the above is wrong as the official figures show.  The number of working HB claimants will not RISE to 962,000 this year that number in May 2010 was 1.058,569 already.  It went passed the ‘expected 962,000′ figure in December 2012 as a matter of FACT (964,145 to be exact) The cost to the taxpayer has climbed to £4.6bn?  No as a matter of FACT it is already £5.13 billion as at May 2014 as I explain above with very specific references to qualified FACT and without any scope for ambiguity. In this fast paced world where we can see instantaneous video on our smartphones in the middle of a cornfield of something happening live 13,000 miles away how can we not read a f*cking spreadsheet of factual data?? Given that welfare reforms are high up the political agenda and will play a part in the next general election, the Tory spin machine on HB and welfare reform has us believe that both are working and the political cry of Four more years, Four more years is their message.  Yet the FACTS of the matter mean the reality is and the battlecry should be FOUR POOR YEARS, FOUR POOR YEARS. As Thomas Paine said in Common Sense, the battlecry for American independence “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”  Believe IDS’s rhetoric and deceit and you would think his welfare reforms are working.  Scratch under that superficial veneer reader and the FACTS tell a very different story indeed.  Time to stir!

The Upper Tribunal bedroom tax lead case CH/153/2014 here

Anyone paying close attention to the bedroom tax appeal issues will know by now that the Secretary of State at the DWP has been granted permission to appeal case CH/153/2014 at the Upper Tribunal.  Additionally the Upper Tribunal has determined that all room size and room usage appeals are to be ‘stayed’ until after this ‘lead case’ has been heard and also stayed until after the almost inevitable Court of Appeal hearing that will follow.

I sent a copy of this UT Direction to the Nearly Legal site which was acknowledged who stated in a brief blog post about this :

Secondly, (and thanks Joe) I have been sent a copy of a letter staying an appeal to the Upper Tribunal, which states that all appeals on the issue of room size and use are stayed pending determination of a ‘lead case’ and any further appeal in that case. This is case CH/153/2014.

Does anyone know this case and whether it is one of the FTT decisions we already know about? I am presuming that the claimant is represented and that this is one reason the case has been chosen. If they aren’t, they need to be, right away!

I am presuming that the claimant is represented and that this is one reason the case has been chosen. If they aren’t, they need to be, right away!

Giles at Nearly Legal is not known for his wanton use of the exclamation mark and I couldn’t agree more that the appellant needs the best representation.

Late yesterday I saw some documented proof on Facebook which said this lead case is a failed FTT case and one which has been given permission to be appealed by the Upper Tribunal.

ch1532014ref

As I have written UT appeal submissions for failed FtT cases that have been given permission to appeal, some of which were not for cases I took. that made me scour my files even though I couldn’t remember a joint room size / usage case that had failed at FtT.

I did find a submission I drafted 28 December 2013 on room size and a few other procedural matters together with a determination notice from the Upper Tribunal from 8 April granting permission to appeal with the UT reference number CH153/2014, the lead case that has taken on a new importance.  The tenant came to me to write the appeal at the last minute and hence reading it back it is not the most cogently articulated appeal although I never saw sight of the original submission yet it served the purpose of having permission granted.

At that time the significance of this reference number was of no consequence.  I do not have full bundle of papers of this case or the statement of reasons but I know who does and who the representatives are for the tenant. There was a parting of ways which is of no consequence nor will I air it here.  The representatives know what they are doing regarding bedroom tax arguments and will have sought and received legal representation and I would be amazed if they had not.

I will however reveal some facts of this case.

  • This is a very early case and pre dates the Fife cases by a few days and does not contain room usage arguments at all which surprises me as the stay from this lead case applies to all room size and / or room usage cases according to the UT Direction Notice.
  •  This lead case has the disputed room measuring less than 50 square feet.
  •  The case was submitted as a paper based appeal and did not have an oral hearing
  • I never saw sight of the original paper based submission though I am fairly certain that the room size argument was based on the 1985 Housing Act alone or at least primarily on the overcrowding provisions therein and not other room size arguments

The case was drafted and submitted by a largish firm of solicitors (60 or so staff) who have been around for over 60 years. The background to which is a relative of the appellant worked for the law firm and one of the partners (I was told) drafted the original FTT case and I can understand why the appellant chose this option. However, why a partner in a law firm would submit a paper based appeal when oral hearings have a far higher success rate (60% or so) surprised me greatly then and still does.

The solicitor then did not take on the appeal for reasons unknown and I was asked to draft the appeal at very short notice by the tenant which I did and dated 28 December 2013 and I found this late today on my laptop along with a copy of the UT permission in a letter dated 8 April 2014 which detailed permission being granted on 24 March 2014 with the Reasons stating:

The “room size” point merits further consideration. (Permission to appeal is not, however, limited to this ground alone.)

It then states some Case Management Directions to the Secretary of State having a month to intervene and mentions the Fife cases being appealed. The FtT judge in the Fife cases Simon Collins QC gave permission on 17 December 2013 for those cases – two of the 5 heard that day of which 4 won.

I presume the DWP here are seeking to rule the 1985 Housing Act does not read across and in the Fife cases that the 1987 Housing (Scotland) Act doesn’t either. So why these two Acts are the same the DWP is seeking to cross the ‘t’s an dot the ‘i’s with both Acts and the reader may wish to cure their insomnia by looking at in pari materia and cross contextual construction of an ordinary English word too.

I no longer have contact with the appellant’s representative nor do I know whether they have secured legal representation for this lead case.  I hope they have as this case is hugely important to all appellants successful at FtT and those who lost at FtT and have been granted permission to appeal, as well as the tenant involved here all deserve the best possible legal representation.

The representatives must have been informed a few months back that this was to be a ‘lead case’ as the UT Directions Notice to stay all other cases on CH/153/2014 was dated 18 June 2014.

I imagine that the silence on this issue which has caused the understandable consternation – especially as word always gets out – for what must be two months or more is due to the insistence of legal representation gained, which I can fully understand and appreciate.

The purpose of the above is to stop the speculation which is rife across social media and note my comments above why I suggest a media silence has happened which I assume – and I would agree with and to if I was involved in this case – is because the legal representation for the lead case has requested it.

Copy of the UT letter

CH1532014

 

DHP actual spend reveals it is time to radically rethink the impacts of welfare reforms

Last month central government released a report showing how local councils spent the £160 million of DHP money they were given for 2013/2014 to mitigate the welfare reform policies such as the bedroom tax.  Where did that money go and how it was spent by councils (LAs) is very revealing indeed as it supports the view that social housing differ markedly from one council to the next and because of that these welfare reforms will impact very differently in different local areas.

I don’t just mean inter regionally – between London and the North West for example – I also mean intra regionally with major different housing variables giving significantly different welfare reform impacts within London or within the North West and any other region.

Hence anyone of the (literally) scores of research reports which came out a few months back claiming to comment on how the bedroom tax impacted are flawed.  This is because the bedroom tax like the benefit cap and LHA reforms impact differently inter regionally and intra regionally and those impacts depend upon the markedly different housing conditions in each local authority area or council.  In simple terms to say the bedroom tax did ‘X’ to downsizing or did ‘Y’ to HB savings can only be a generalism that may hold in London but not in the North West or may hold in Oldham in the North West but not in neighbouring Rochdale.

An in-depth look at actual data in the payments of DHP exposes the radically different housing variables in each council and proves the impacts of welfare reform differ in Oldham as to Rochdale, Brighton as to Hastings or Eastbourne, Liverpool as to Wirral, Merthyr as to Blaenau or Westminster as to Southwark.

So what are DHPs?

DHP or Discretionary Housing Payment is money given from central government for local authorities to spend helping those caught by (housing) welfare reforms, that in 2013/14 were expected to save £1,682 million from Bedroom Tax (£465m); Benefit Cap (£275m) and various LHA reforms (£942m). In short the coalition attempted to take £1,682 million away in welfare reform housing cuts and gave local councils £160 million to sort out the inevitable housing mess.

Welfare Reform is housing cuts!

Make no mistake the major welfare reforms are housing reforms.  The bedroom tax is a social housing welfare cut.  The LHA reforms are private rented housing cuts.  The Benefit Cap which affects 54% private tenants and 46% social tenants is both and administered through Housing Benefit.

Therefore DHP is to mitigate greater housing benefit expenditure

So how did LAs spend this money given to mitigate the cuts to housing benefit and what does this reveal?

dhpswiped1

Firstly the bottom of column 3 reveals that councils spent just over £162 million from the £160 million allocated.  So local councils spent more on DHP than they were allocated.

Yet how many reports have you read that DHP was underspent and councils gave money back to central government?  Remember these are the official DWP figures hence we must note that much political spin is used over them which can only highlight the political significance of them. Welfare Reform, like most political issues, tends to surround itself with political hyperbole and superficial statement and tends to ignore actual fact that official data such as this gives.  Two plus two is always four unless you are a politician!!

Column 3 also reveals that in 2013/14 some £26.320 million was spent supporting tenants with the Benefit Cap and £80.805 million was spent on RSRS (Removal Spare Room Subsidy) or Bedroom Tax and £21.128 million on LHA or supporting private tenant housing benefit cuts.

Housing Benefit circular S1 of 2013 gave very different allocation figures of what DHP was intended to be used for.  The bedroom tax was allocated £55 million yet £81 million was spent by councils for example and some 50% more than expected meaning less has to be spent than intended on other purposes of DHP such as LHA reforms of benefit cap.

I have highlighted that £29.764 million of the £160 million was NOT spent on welfare reform policies as it was intended. Or at least that is what the figures suggest and that caught his eye and made me lookat each individual LA to see who had NOT spent these DHP monies on welfare reform policies and to try to investigate a bit further.

What appears to have happened to this £30m is that councils – and interestingly those councils who retain the homelessness or housing options service in-house – have spent considerably more on rent deposit or bond schemes.  They have used (raided?) DHP budgets to bolster bond schemes which in simple terms pay for deposits of private sector tenants.

Yet the detail is sketchy an does NOT say what this non welfare reform spending was on and merely states how much each LA did not spend on welfare reform policy.  I developed a simple spreadsheet to put the DHP spend by each council into percentage terms as below to see which councils had spent DHP on other things than the housing welfare reforms as below:

dhpbreakdown

As you can see from the figures in red there is a wide variation in percentage terms ranging from 3.15% in Aberdeen to 65.33% in Blackpool.  The full tables ranged from zero in some areas to 83.43% in Thanet.  Why is that?  The details of these official DWP monitoring tables do not say.

However by looking at the decisions made in percentage terms we see that Wirral made 44% of all DHP decisions on deposit bond schemes and so did Birmingham and in the amount of purported non welfare reform spend – which is how DWP categorise this not me – this is very high indeed compared to other councils.  Note here I am not saying a deposit bond scheme is a misuse of DHP funding at all and it is clear that DHP has always been used for them; rather I am saying a few related matters.  Firstly that in some councils the percentage of DHP spent on bond schemes must have rocketed. Secondly, that DHP by being additional money means local council budgets have had to find less local money for bond schemes.  Thirdly that raises the valid point that such spending is a result of the impact of welfare reform and not a preventative measure which DHP is meant to be.  That trend will only increase as more cases of homelessness or potential homelessness arise due to the welfare reforms policies.

Yet staying with the above table I noticed the final column on the right which revealed the amount NOT spent on DHP in money terms and he saw a huge £1.4 million in Birmingham of DHP monies NOT spent on welfare reforms and £453,106 in Blackpool.

Blackpool is in HB terms an outlier or extreme as it has 72% of all its Housing Benefit claimants living in privately rented housing and the highest in the UK.  Blackpool stands out from the average which is 68% of HB claimants in social rented housing and 32% in the private rented sector and so has atypical housing circumstances. Welwyn Hatfield is the other extreme with 88% of HB claimants being in the SRS and just 12% in the PRS.

Could it be that DHP payments simply mirror the unique HB circumstances in each council and the reason Blackpool has a high figure of purported non welfare reform DHP payments is due to its HB claimant proportions? I looked at other councils known to me to have a high proportion of PRS HB claimants and most of them have the same high % in this column such as Torbay.  Yet LB Barking & Dagenham in the table above has almost 38% and its HB claimants mirror the national average.

Being a numbers geek (Oi!!) this anomaly made me look further and the more I looked the more that anomalies occurred all over these figures in every council and in every area of spend.

I have looked at the DHP spend of all of the local councils which gave a breakdown to DWP and the vast majority did for anomalies.  I like anyone in housing would expect London councils to spend more than Northern councils on the benefit cap given that there are much higher rents in London than the North East and that is generally borne out in the data but with some unusual anomalies.  Similarly, I would start from the hypothesis and expect councils in the North West to spend a higher percentage of their DHP on bedroom tax than London councils as the bedroom tax affects 43% of social tenants there yet 22% or crudely half as many in London.

Such generalities are to be expected for those reasons yet nothing yet explains the missing £30m or so which councils did NOT spend as they should have done on mitigating the welfare reforms of bedroom tax, benefit cap and the various LHA reforms (LHA cap, shared accommodation rate to under 35s, below inflation rent increases etc.)

Yet the DHP spend is hugely revealing of the different housing conditions that are present right across the country and MUST mean that the welfare reform policies will IMPACT differently from area to area and I don’t just mean between London and the North east or North West or a regional basis but even between councils in the same region.  The more I looked the more this became apparent.

Much of the theoretical rationale behind the welfare reform policies is behavioural nudge theory – to incentivise the tenant to downsize or move from a high rent area to a low rent area – Yet such theory assumes a general impact across the purported uniform housing sectors and is highly superficial as it takes no account at all of the very different housing circumstances that pertain in each local authority area; rather it merely assumes that housing conditions are a constant in every LA area when they are not and the DHP spend starkly shows the diverse nature of housing conditions from one LA to the next.

As stated above you would expect a London council to spend more on the benefit cap and LHA reforms than on the bedroom tax and in a previous post I looked at the percentage chance of a social tenant getting a DHP for bedroom tax which in theory gave the social tenant a mere 6% chance of getting one yet the Westminster tenant the other extreme with a 169% chance of getting a bedroom tax DHP.  All that revealed was the perverse and unreliable nature of the allocation of DHP from central to local government and unreliable in a legal sense too with the courts ruling that DHP justifies the disability discrimination the bedroom tax has been legally found to give – see here for more detail on that aspect of DHP.

Yet the ACTUAL spend was vastly different as despite LB Westminster being allocated 169% of its total bedroom tax cut it spent just 1.72% of it total DHP on bedroom tax cases.  This must mean that the local choices taken by LB Westminster reflected LB Westminster housing conditions or threats to higher cost to LB Westminster through homelessness.

Logically the LHA caps on maximum housing benefit payments will impact far more on Westminster than in a low rent area in the NE and that is stating the obvious. It is also stating the obvious that all London councils would therefore spend more on LHA reforms and benefit cap than on bedroom tax to follow that argument.  Yet this is not the case as below we see Southwark spending far more on bedroom tax DHP than it did on benefit cap or LHA DHPs and both of them combined.

dhp southwark

Maybe, I thought, this is a reflection of political control of councils with Labour-led councils spending more on bedroom tax than on LHA yet political control is not a factor as anomalies stood out all over the country and within regions and political control did not play any real factor.

The more I looked the more it became clear JUST how divergent one council area is from the next and each had its own peculiar housing circumstances and that MUST force a rethink on the efficacy and likely impact of welfare reform policies upon which the world and his wife have speculated upon without this critically significant factor since day one.

Why would Hartlepool in the North East spend 19.81% of its DHP on benefit cap yet LB Southwark spent less at 18.12% or why would Sunderland spend 17.3% and Stockton 17.12% on benefit cap when other North East councils spent 5.15% in Newcastle or 3.44% in Redcar and just 1.55% in South Tyneside and even lower at 0.58% in North Tyneside.

Political control of councils is not an issue in the North East yet the spend on benefit cap is markedly different across the North East just as it is across North West councils and West Midlands councils.

Anomalies jump off the page all over the country as why would South Ayrshire spent 57% of its DHP allocation on LHA reforms compared to a low single percentage figure across the rest of Scotland, outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh? Why would Clackmannanshire spend almost 14% of its DHP on benefit cap and markedly different from other Scottish councils? Is there less central heating there that has created larger household sizes than normal?

Yet seriously Clackmannanshire has a massive 84% of its HB claimants being social tenants (Scotland average 79%) so all you housing commentators who believe the benefit cap only affects high rents areas and high rent private tenants its time to rethink that view. Worthy of note is the benefit cap impact assessment from DWP that estimated 46% of all households hit would be in social housing and of course the benefit cap only started in October 2013 meaning this 14% of total spend is for half a year and all other reasons such as bedroom tax and LHA reforms are for full years percentage spend.

To return to even more anomalies which keep turning up and strongly support that each LA has very different rented housing variables and so the welfare reforms WILL inevitably impact differently across the country…..

Why would Cheshire West spend 68% of its DHP on bedroom tax yet Cheshire East spend just 36%? Why would Hastings spend twice as much as neighbouring Brighton on bedroom tax DHP yet Brighton spend triple the amount as Hastings on benefit cap DHPs at 31.07 to 9.7%. And neighbouring Eastbourne spend over 50% of its DHP on non welfare reform policies too!

There are hundreds of similar anomalies all over the country and I inevitably began by looking at LA areas I am familiar with.  Why did Oldham in Great Manchester spend 29% of its DHP on LHA reform yet neighbouring Rochdale spend just 7.5% and Bolton also in Greater Manchester spent nothing at all?  It is not the percentage split of social tenants to private tenants as HB claimants as Oldham has 30.83% of its HB claimants being private tenants and Rochdale has 30.89% and Bolton which spent zero DHP has 29.91% of PRS HB claimants. All three councils are Metropolitan Councils and all 3 councils are strong Labour Party run councils.  So what explains the huge difference in DHP spending there as it is not political or a different set of housing circumstances?

Is it just that each DHP decision maker in each area has an overly subjective influence or just that more private tenants in some areas than social tenants applied for DHP?

In Merseyside there is a number of unexplained anomalies and a large swipe of DHP allocation being used for non welfare reform purposes.  St Helens spend 45% (£218,055) on non welfare reform purposes and Wirral 38% which is £406,598 not spent on welfare reforms yet Sefton just 0.57% or £4,317.  (And neighbouring Halton swiped 42% of its DHP budget too at £161,759 not spent on welfare reform policies)

Liverpool at £77.717 or 3.97% of its spend on non welfare reform purposes differs as Liverpool added significant amounts of its own funding to the DHP budget and evident in it spending 110% of its entire DHP allocation on bedroom tax DHP.  Yet strangely Liverpool which has far fewer PRS tenants as HB claimants orwith 33% than Wirral at 47% yet Wirral spent almost twice its DHP allocation on LHA reforms to Wirral at 11.7% to 6.7%.  But then Wirral has a very high percentage of DHP not spent on bedroom tax, benefit cap or LHA reforms and did make 44% of all DHP decisions for deposit bond schemes and has its homeless / housing options team in-house and not administered by the former council housing stock transferred organisation as many do.

This is getting rambling and far too long, yet I could easily go on with many more anomalies. However what can be said in summary is very revealing and provides strong grounds to rethink the welfare reforms.

Individually different housing conditions or variables exist in every council across the UK and that applies to socially rented housing and privately rented housing in each local authority area. To merely suggest that social housing differs between London and North is a chronic under consideration of what social housing is and fails to see its divergent variables.  As such it is way too simplistic and deeply flawed to say the bedroom tax means this for all social housing or the LHA reforms mean this for all UK privately rented housing.

YES that also means IDS or even a Labour MP saying the bedroom tax will do this will be talking out of their errant hat as no one can predict such impacts due to the divergent individual nature and variables that exist and the welfare reform policies will impact in very different from one neighbouring council to the next.

It’s time that MPs, researchers, tenants and social landlords woke up to that and begin to consider welfare reform in light of that.

 

DHP – Dubious Hoodwinking Practices or how IDS pulled the woolsack over the courts eyes!

Did you know that in the first year of the bedroom tax the government allocated £55m for bedroom tax DHP yet local councils spent £81m?

Probably not as the coalition is fond of telling us that DHPs were not fully spent.  Quite an achievement (ie lie) for DWP when their own figures reveal these facts.

Did you know that £30m of the total DHP awarded to local councils was NOT spent on welfare reforms?

Me neither and that suggests local councils have swiped £30m away from vulnerable people too doesn’t it?  To make that point worse it appears that DWP are not investigating LAs any further on this point which if correct as it appears to be then what is to stop local councils swiping all of the DHP allocation to use for libraries or roads or even for junkets for councillors?

Oh I see that’s what we call Localism – local people know local needs best say the government in their usual superficial spin.  It sounds so plausible yet scratch under the surface and we see that £30m of the £160m allocated was used for other non welfare reform purposes.

What about the coalition’s constant refrain that DHP monies were returned?

Yes IDS and Freud make great play of that one don’t they reader?  Yet look at the figures (below) and we see that local councils who were given £160m in DHP actually spent £162.6m!!  Yes they spent more than 100% of what was allocated to them – although this includes the £30m (£29.765m) they siphoned off for other purposes.

In the myth, hyperbole, sophistry and political spin which surrounds the bedroom tax Discretionary Housing Payments are very high up that bullshit list.

Time for some more serious comment than the very easy exposure of the coalition lies over welfare reform which has become so common to be passe and hardly shocking to the reader who has become inured to this constant deliberate charade of lies, deceit and dissembling from the coalition over welfare reform.  Yet what I find most shocking of all is how IDS and DWP hoodwinked the courts, the very senior courts with the arguments that the discrimination that the bedroom tax was found to be against disabled households was justifiable because of DHP.

One of the biggest charades in the bedroom tax is the consideration of discretionary housing payments or DHPs to allegedly mitigate the policy and it’s found actual discrimination against tenants with a disability in the judicial review case of MA & Ors in both the High Court and Court of Appeal.

I have always had an issue with DHPs which I could easily and correctly state as they are an ingenious device for the coalition to have used, however unintended or unwittingly.  To persuade two of the senior courts that DHP does mitigate the bedroom tax and in doing so justifies the clear discrimination to those with a disability is bloody clever and especially when they do not.

My view goes even further than that and holds that DHPs cannot mitigate the bedroom tax policy or the discrimination even in theory and below I outline that view with some factual and actual supporting evidence which has not and could not have been under consideration by the Court of Appeal.

You can deduce from all of the above that I am very strongly of the view the Court of Appeal’s view on the mitigation and justification DHP bring is wrong.  Who am I to tell the very learned minds of the Court of Appeal that they have been hoodwinked you may ask?  Fair point and one that could infer I am a conceited prig yet it is what the reality of the now available data on DHP payments for bedroom tax purposes reveals.

I have previously released data on what percentage chance a bedroom tax affected household has in theory of getting a DHP for bedroom tax here which merely suggests that chance by how much of the DHP total each LA was allocated for bedroom tax purposes is in relation to the actual bedroom tax amount of cut in each LA.  At the two extremes this gave a social housing tenant a 6% or so chance in Copeland yet the same tenant in LB Westminster had a 169% chance, at least in theory.  That also reveals a massive flaw in the allocation of DHP funds from central to local government.  Yet with the actual data we see that local government allocated DHP as they wished and not in the way DWP intended and not in the way DWP contended to the courts.

At the end of this argument is a table which reveals what percentage of the overall DHP amounts they received each LA actually spent on DHP for bedroom tax affected tenants or put simply the actual rather than the theoretically projected.

One stark issue is that while the social tenant in LB Westminster had a 169% chance of a bedroom tax DHP in theory and the highest chance in any LA, the reality is LB Westminster spent the lowest percentage of its DHP total funding on the bedroom tax tenant at just 1.72%.

In other words the theory behind the percentage chance of receiving a bedroom tax DHP which is the same theory or legal argument the DWP has relied on in the senior courts is a load of tosh and cannot in any way be relied upon and especially as a legal principle.

By virtue of huge discrepancies between the intended purposes of the DHP allocation the DWP relies on in the courts to what has actually happened in practice reveals the many flaws in the legal argument that a DHP mitigates the discrimination the bedroom tax has been found to hold to disabled tenants.  Even in theory this DWP legal argument cannot hold and in practice it is shown to be a huge false proposition in law.

In June this year and largely unnoticed the DWP published the actual DHP expenditure breakdown by each local authority and also for once admitted the truth rather than the frequent abject sophistry (ie deliberate known lies) they issue to the media whenever the bedroom tax is questioned.  The latest classic example of that was in a report on the BBC website yesterday that a disabled couple who have to sleep apart on medical grounds and require a bedroom each won a bedroom tax appeal which the Tribunal ruled allows them a bedroom each in this policy which its crudeness denies.  The BBC reported:

The DWP said it had made £345m of payments available to councils to help the most vulnerable cases and money was specifically earmarked for disabled people living in specially-adapted accommodation.

The (anonymous) DWP spokesperson saying that the government has put in £345m to mitigate the bedroom tax when that is simply untrue.  It is correct to say the DWP has provided £345m in total DHPs on two years yet of this financial year’s allocation of £165m just £60m or 30.5% has been allocated for bedroom tax DHP and last year it was even lower than this. In total and in two years the DWP has allocated just over £100m and the claims they issue repeatedly to the press when confronted on bedroom tax matters is a deliberate conflation and a deliberate and known lie to use a figure more than three times the actual figure at £345m.

The DWP report from June included this table:

dhp201314

What this table demonstrates is that in 2013/14 the first year of the bedroom tax DWP allocated £55 million of the total £180 million DHP for bedroom tax.  The same official DWP document says it has allocated £60m of this year’s total £165m DHP for bedroom tax purposes making a two year total of £115 or one-third of the £345m the DWP regularly uses with deliberate conflation and falsehood in all news releases on the bedroom tax policy.

Yet the real information in this official document is it reveals how much each LA actually spent on bedroom tax DHP in 2013/14 and of course the DWP heading is not bedroom tax but RSRS which is their titling of Removal Spare Room Subsidy or as we all including dictionaries now include as ‘bedroom tax.’

I have deliberately included paragraph 9 which follows the above table because it says something very critical to the argument of DHP as legal justification for disability discrimination to wit

Whilst amounts were notionally allocated for each reform measure, LAs received a single allocation and had discretion about how the funding was used.

To argue in court and have accepted by the court that DHP was a justification must be premised on the basis that LAs WILL spend their DHP in some form of broad comparison to how it was allocated.  All LAs have the discretion to pay DHP for bedroom tax purposes anywhere between 0% and 250% of the allocation.  LAs could choose to spend none of the DHP allocated on bedroom tax, that is 0%; or they were allowed to supplement the DHP allocation by £1.50 for every £1 they received, or 250%.  The sheer scale of this local discretion means a DHP is not a national policy but a local one and that is the cleverness / hoodwinking the court the DWP has employed.

An entirely discretionary and an entirely discretionary LOCAL policy cannot be a legal justification even in theory for a NATIONAL policy and this is where the DWP hoodwinked the Court of Appeal in my view.

It is a clever DWP defence to say we have provided the money and not our fault if local authorities chose not to use DHP as intended.  Yet it must be fundamentally flawed and wrong in law as even the DWP admit each LOCAL authority can spend nothing at all on a DHP to mitigate the bedroom tax and justify the legally found discrimination the policy has towards the disabled household.

This is where the projected versus actual figures for LB Westminster proves the point in stark terms. My previous post on the (theoretical) percentage chance of a bedroom tax DHP saw a 169% chance of that in LB Westminster.  Yet the actual amount spent (see alphabetical table below) on DHP for bedroom tax in LB Westminster was just 1.72%

The bedroom tax tenant in Westminster had the highest theoretical chance of receiving a DHP yet the reality and fact is that same tenant received the lowest actual percentage across the country.

The theory and the application of DHP as mitigation and legal justification for discrimination is a total nonsense and the High Court and Court of Appeal have been hoodwinked by the Secretary of State’s arguments and the proof of that Duff pudding is in the eating as the tables below demonstrate.

hat must hold despite the fact that the majority of LAs spent MORE on bedroom tax DHP than they were allocated.  All that proves is that DHP as mitigation and justification is another post code lottery and one that surely cannot lead to a legal conclusion of being justifiable such is the vagary and discrepancies the facts hold.

For example my home city of Liverpool spent 110% of its entire allocation on bedroom tax DHP yet that must mean it spent a lot less on Benefit Cap or any other welfare reform policy that DHP was allocated for. In essence a positive discrimination for the social tenant yet a negative one for the private tenant – that is still discrimination and not justifiable for the claimed DHP rationale that the Secretary of State has hoodwinked the courts over.

It also means that Liverpool MUST have added its own resources to the DHP allocation which is yet another of the clever deceits the Secretary of State has pulled over the eyes of the senior courts.  Many LAs had 10% of their entire funding cut in their 2013/14 allocation of all funding from central government and so the likelihood of any LA being able, and willing, to add anything to the DHP allocation was always a highly contentious idea and yet it appears not to have been considered by the senior courts too. Yet that additional point is very much minor to the actuality of how DHP were made or not to the bedroom tax tenant.

Nationally while £55m was allocated for bedroom tax DHP the actual spend was £81m or 50% higher than the DWP intended which can only suggest that LAs on average believed they needed 50% more than they actually received.

dhpspent

How to read the tables below.

The tables are in alphabetical order as the reader will want to know what their LA spent.  Some LA’s appear to have a 0% spend figure yet that is not the case.  All the 0% figure next to an LA’s name means is that LA did not provide the data to DWP although as you can see the vast majority did and my interpretation or other interpretation on what this data reveals must hold because it is a huge sample size.

As £55m of the total £180m DHP spend was intended for bedroom tax purposes this means each LA should have spent 30.55% of DHP on bedroom tax – the results as you can see are vastly different and vary dramatically.

Tables on Bedroom tax DHP actual spend by LA

dhpspend10f4dhpspend2of4

dhpspend3of4

dhpspend40f4

 

Housing Benefit – a £4bnpa subsidy for low wage UK employers

This article finds that Housing Benefit subsidises low wage paying UK employers to the tune of £4.86 BILLION per year.

It also finds that social housing receives £1.125 billion per year in capital subsidy yet produces savings to the taxpayer of £4.08 billion per year as it charges the taxpayer £23.41 less in HB for its 3.37m HB claimants than a private landlords receives.

Hence the £4.08 billion saving that social housing gives back to the taxpayer is then (and some more) given to unscrupulously low wage-paying employers so that working families can afford to work for such wages.

Strange how a few facts reveal that long held myths such as social housing is subsidised when the real subsidised is British employers!!

Do read on as what started on a very closely related subject led me to the startling yet true facts above.

************************************

Those who have read any of my blogs will know I like numbers.  Two plus two is always four (unless you are IDS) and numbers are FACT and irrefutable FACT.  The bedroom tax has so much myth and hearsay and nonsense talked about it for example Muslims allowed an extra bedroom as a prayer room and hat angers me and not just because of the racist connotations in it. It angers me as the old adage of tell a lie often enough and people believe it is very much at play.

One very valid point is the inept release of purported fact from reliable sources and today I read a classic example in the Independent:  It says:

The number of working people relying on housing benefit to boost their income has doubled in five years, at a cost of billions of pounds to the taxpayer, a new analysis has disclosed.

Labour will seize on the figures today to argue that millions more people are trapped in insecure jobs with poverty pay despite recent evidence of economic growth.

According to the House of Commons statistics, 478,000 people with jobs claimed housing benefit in 2009/10, rising to an expected 962,000 this year. On current trends, the number of claimants will increase by a further 276,000 to 1,238,000 in 2018-19.

The above is not fact and we see the House of Commons library producing false figures and figures which understate the true FACTUAL figures which are given in Table 6 of the quarterly housing benefit data released and compiled by DWP.  Here is that irrefutable fact:

HB WORKING

As you can see this is a spreadsheet table which records by month the number of working people claiming HB in the fourth column from the left – rising from 430,162 in November 2008 to 1,036,816 in November 2013.  So the House of Commons figures which say “...478,000 people with jobs claimed housing benefit in 2009/10, rising to an expected 962,000 this year..” are not factual as well over one million are already working with such low wages they need to claim Housing Benefit.

These are the OFFICIAL figures and therefore the FACT.

You will notes if you look carefully at the above spreadsheet table the final row is a series of percentage figures and these are my figures on the difference between the ‘inherited’ position of May 2010 and the November 2013 figures. So for example the number of claimants in column 2 is 104.92% at November 2013 of the figure at May 2010 or increased by 4.92%.

Do not be too alarmed that the ESA claimants have increased by 464% as this is just an aberration of the movement of IS and IBclaimants onto ESA and note that Income Support claimants have fallen by half.  They cancel each other out as this simple graph reveals:

HBCLAIMANTS

What frankly annoys the hell out of me is the misreporting of FACT by bodies that should know better such as the House of Commons statistics and the Independent newspaper as well as the highly opportunistic Labour Party.  I reported here LAST August that the HB figures for those working had gone through the one million mark including the comment that this was a near 60% increase since the last general election and it meant that HB was a subsidy for low paying employers – the exact same charge one year LATER that the Independent reveals as a scoop and the same political charge the opportunistic Labour Party is now about to use.

I am not bothered that the mainstream media or the House of Commons Library or the Labour Party clearly did not read my blog: I am extremely bothered that it has taken them 12 months to locate the official fact of the matter from the official figures or in simple terms the mainstream news media the House of Commons and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition are not doing their EASY jobs!

As usual the two main political parties seek to score points and little else and we see the Tories blaming this on the ‘last lots’ HB management:

Last night Mark Harper, the Minister for Disabled People, hit back by accusing Labour of bequeathing the government “an out-of-control housing benefit system” and a “culture of dependency”.

He said: “Their system saw some people claiming £104,000 a year of hardworking taxpayers’ money to live in expensive areas. We have capped benefits so no family can claim more than the average family gets by going out to work and we’ve put an end to unlimited housing benefit.

The usual bullsh*t and bullsh*t terminology is used – the ‘hardworking taxpayers’ by Mark Harper without any sense of irony that the most hardworking taxpayer is by definition those whose wages are so low they qualify for Housing Benefit in the first place!!

It was found that at most 5 (out of 4.752m) HB claimants a whopping 0.00001% claimed more than £100,000 per year in HB.  Still wrong and still far too much of course yet then we find that after the coalition changes to cap LHA the private rented version of HB that LB Westminster alone pays out £153,000 per year to a lot more than 5 households in housing benefit as they have been evicted because of the LHA cap.  Check out this BBC London report from February 2013 which reported that LB Westminster is spending over 150,000 per year on a family of 4 made homeless by the coalition’s LHA cap and this report also reveals dozens of similar cases in that one borough alone and far more HB public purse cost than the 5 cases across the whole of the uK that the coalition levied at the ‘last lot!’

That FACT and proven FACT is 18 months old yet because the belatedly opportunistic Labour Party chose not to challenge it then Joe Public believes that the coalition has reduced HB and stopped this scandalous misuse when in FACT it has increased it!

Perhaps it will take Labour MPs going to Gaza to finally get the rocket up their arse they deserve!

The Labour Party claim to be against the bedroom tax and we now see the Liberal Democrats apparently against it and of course for the same cynical reason, opposition to it buys votes.  Yet why has it taken so long for them to see the obvious and irrefutable FACT surrounding the bedroom tax and wider welfare reform such as HB does subsidise low wage paying employers.

Finally dear reader here are two graph and so simple that even politicians, the mainstream news media and the House of Commons library can understand them.  The first is the total HB spend since the election I used many months ago:

coalition hb bill

As you can see the HB bill despite the welfare reform policies such as the bedroom tax has increased sharply.

The second is the cost paid out in Housing Benefit to working families :

£hbworking

 

The above uses the Nov 2013 average cost of HB of £89.19 to keep a constant cost figure for ease of comparison between the general election in May 2010 and each year thereafter up until the November 2013 figure.

  • This reveals the Housing Benefit paid out to working families has increased by £1.81 billion per year since the election.
  • That is the same as HB has increased to working families by £1.42 million PER DAY and EACH AND EVERY DAY since the last election
  • Or the UK taxpayer subsidises low wage paying employers by £13.32 million every day

Social Housing gets £1.125 billion in capital subsidy per year yet low wage paying UK employers now get £4.86bn per year for their workers

For every £1 the UK taxpayer subsidises social housing it gives UK businesses £4 in subsidy!!

You think that would be something the UK taxpayer would care to know wouldn’t you reader and I wonder why social housing doesn’t SHOUT that out!  God forbid my regular repeated charge against them that they couldn’t lobby their way out of a wet paper bag was valid in any way!!

FACT the bedroom tax and FACT Housing Benefit and a quick 15 minute investigation reveals some surprising facts!

Social landlords are so inefficient we are told and require £1.125bn in subsidy each year.  So that means that UK businesses are 4.32 times as inefficient as they need 4 times that amount to subsidise the low wages the pay and without this £4.86 BILLION per year their workers could not afford to work for the low pay they receive.

You may argue, and probably correctly, that those in working do not receive the same £89.19 per week of HB as the average for all HB claimants.  It will be less.  I agree yet if the average received by a working household in HB is just £24 per week this is still MORE in HB subsidy that low paying UK employers get than social housing receives.

I have said many time before the initial capital subsidy that social housing receives saves the UK taxpayer over £4bn per year (1,645, 504 private rents each get £23.41 more per week in housing benefit) see tables 4 and 5 of official HB figures) given the lower rents and lower HB this becomes to social tenants over what the non-subsidised private landlord receives.

So in effect all of the saving that social housing gives to the taxpayer is promptly paid out to UK bosses so they can subsidise scandalously low paid jobs.

Yes social housing which has been lambasted by politicians and Joe Public for being subsidised in fact gives a huge saving to the UK taxpayer and in turn itself subsidises unscrupulously low paying UK employers with this saving!

Amazing what a few numbers and facts reveal!!

(Hopefully) Final update 16:00 hours

Here is the capital subsidy that social housing receives £4.5bn over 4 years or £1.125bn per year

capital funding

 

 

Gonads to the spare room subsidy? The lady doth protest too much?

This is a short post but a genuinely serious one.  About 5 minutes ago I log on to Facebook to see pictures of a demonstration against the bedroom tax today in Wirral.

Not a large demonstration and a peaceful one yet a police officer decided that a t-shirt worn by one of the protestors was somehow offensive.

Here is that t-shirt:

 

bollockstothebedroomtax

I was not on the demo but I have the same t-shirt which was given to me over a year ago when I spoke to a grassroots anti bedroom tax group in Wirral and I am proud to have one and I like it and thought…yes it was the dog’s bollocks when I first saw it but (genuinely) I shrank it in the wash so yes I really bollocksed up that simple task didn’t I?

I wonder if McVey, yes Wirral is her constituency, had worn a t-shirt with the Spare Room Subsidy is the dog’s bollocks on it would they have had the same response from the police? Ok enough of that reader I don’t want to put imagery of dog’s bollocks on McVey’s chest …

So what is offensive about the word bollocks?  Yes that’s a serious question. If the t-shirt merely said “bollocks” on it would a police officer or a member of the general public think it offensive?  I doubt it as how many t-shirts do we see with I’m with this fucking idiot written on them with a large finger pointing left or right below such wording?

Surely the word fuck is far more offensive than the word bollocks?

The context here was this was a march to the council offices to hand in appeals on behalf of vulnerable people who have been shafted by the pernicious bedroom tax and the exact same has been done many times before to Wirral Council and with many others wearing the exact same t-shirt.

I have been on a few marches wearing my bollocks to the bedroom tax t-shirt in the past and will continue to do so.  I may decide to wear a Frack Off t-shirt or may choose to wear one with a picture of the the 45 rpm single (yes explain that to your children dear reader!) The W*nkers Song by Ivor Biggun and the Red Nosed Burglars should I see fit.  Are we not allowed to protest any more?  Note well I loved the Clash in my youth and did have a White Riot t-shirt though God forbid what would happen if I wore it on a march! In my youth I rightly thought the Sex Pistols were crap so I never had a Never Mind the Bollocks t-shirt.

A 2 minute google search reveals that bollocks was first used in the Wycliffe bible of 1382 just a mere 632 years ago and just for good measure there was a case taken against the Sex Pistols in 1977 a mere 37 years ago that the Never Mind the Bollocks album cover was obscene – the case was lost and it was ruled not to be obscene.  In fact to those of a certain age John Lydon advertising butter on TV is frankly more obscene

In the end the lady wearing the t-shirt was ordered to cover it up else be arrested by the police officer and she was kindly given a hi-vis jacket by a friend to wear.

hivis bollocks

So apparently glow in the dark goolies to the bedroom tax is acceptable!

 

 

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