The Bedroom Tax – what I KNOW and what WE can DO?

I KNOW the bedroom tax:

  • Pisses me off
  • I’m sick of writing about the bloody thing
  • I’m determined to do all I can with whatever lawful methods to get rid of it

I KNOW many share the same yet I also know there are now 60m UK experts as everyone is talking about it despite all of the hopes of the government that the challenges to and opponents of the bedroom tax will go away.

I KNOW there are many reasons why so many want rid of it from general hating the Tories and or the Lib Dems to it being unfair, costly, having horrendous financial consequences for the social tenant to add to the should I eat or heat general austerity that always impacts more on the poor.

I KNOW I am just one of the 60m UK experts on it

I KNOW far too much time has been spent looking at the problems it will cause and too little effort has been put in to trying to solve it and by ‘solve’ I mean consign it to history or just get rid of the bloody pernicious policy

I KNOW that collectively the brains of those that oppose the bedroom tax should come together

I KNOW that should the collective wisdom of such opponents can find a way to get rid of it – the genuine experts in housing law or any other form; the genuine expert individual who work in housing and have personal opinions that differ from the practical concerns of their corporate bosses the social landlords, and the genuine experts in devising cunning lawful plans that can scupper the whole thing.

Forgive my apparent conceit for labelling myself a genuine expert in devising cunning plans to solve problems.  There’s little conceit and little motive from me other than consigning the bedroom tax to history.  In fact I have pissed of so many of my potential clients for my business in slating the social landlord repeatedly for their chronic ineptitude in challenging the bedroom tax.  I have scored brownie points with tenants but they don’t pay my fees and I don’t get pay or any other remuneration from writing blog after blog after blog.  In business terms and certainly in generating income terms saying how I see the bedroom tax without holding back closes more financial doors than it opens for me. It is personal.

SO – as I KNOW the collective wisdom of all the ‘genuine experts’ can defeat the bedroom tax they should get their respective heads together and throw egos out of the window. A call to arms or whatever you want to term it and whether that’s offline or by back channels or in whatever way suits is inconsequential, and collectively WE find a way to DO this.

If we all donated 1% of the time we have spent wallowing in our respective personal vanity of seeing how many blog views we can get or how many people agree with our views on the bedroom tax or which journal will publish our latest views, etc; and instead circulated our views to one another, even at the cost of others showing why we were wrong in certain places, then we should.

I KNOW that is more than naivety or idealism and can happen as it has happened in the past in many areas, some of which I have been involved with and others not. Only last night in the pub a regular in my local (I’m not there more than once a week I may add) spoke to me for the first time and said the bedroom tax discussion (others started the discussion not me!) that I had been having he had overheard and it reminded him of when he used to chase Poll Tax bailiffs with cameras!  I know I shouldn’t have been surprised and had any preconceptions yet this very respectable looking well dressed gentleman, in his early 60s now, was very articulate and as mild-mannered as you can get.  Appearances are very deceptive and a salutary reminder of that to your truly!

Having looked at the bedroom tax policy in some depth – is it lawful, what is a bedroom, room sizes, how do landlords see it, many specific dimensions such as impact on domestic violence and so many of the nuances which still come out daily – and raised discussion and some bad points as well as good points, I personally see the direct action approach as the best option.

When I said the system would grind to a halt if all 660,000 affected tenants launched a HB challenge  – and specifically asking for a fuller explanation and/or the council to look again and/or appeal tend to be the tenants 3 basic options tenants have – it will.  The DWP estimating that only 20,000 such tenants would challenge in these ways, just 3% of all tenants, was always a nonsense.

It would initially cause chaos and huge cost for local councils, some discomfort for social landlords too yet these are not the targets.  The coalition government is the target and such a plan would see councils and social landlords forced to lobby the government to do something about this consequence of the bedroom tax.  In simple terms get behind the cause of the social tenant even if they are ambivalent or even against it as they now appear.

So, my apparent conceit comes to a conclusion.  A call to arms for like-minded people to get together and circulate draft procedural challenges to arguments all 660,000 social tenants can use in challenging HB decisions.  Cogent and articulated challenges to a HB decision to impose the bedroom tax deductions in terms of process such as getting every local council to send in writing a copy of their policy the HB Guidance Manual dictates they must have on deciding whether to refer a social housing case to the Rent Officer or how they determine is a property is unsuitably large for that purpose. Or what process the HB department undertook in deciding a property was a 3 bed and not a 2 bed and a boxroom.  Or how was the social landlord involved in the process of reaching the decision.

Many of these maybe simple asking for further detail from councils so as to consider whether to make a formal appeal.  They may reveal, and I strongly suspect they would reveal, that councils do not have a formal written policy on how or when the procedure in determining a HB decision involves the rent officer for a social housing property as this is as rare as hen’s teeth in practice.  Yet the HBGM says councils have such a policy.

What I am seeking is a set of collectively agreed paragraphs to each individual challenge to a bedroom tax decision that all can freely distribute to all 660,000 bedroom tax affected tenants, By all means think, yes, we could all benefit by putting on seminars or training sessions after the fact and make some money from it. And even the same by extrapolating the strategies undertook and selling those services to whoever on the far more dangerous welfare reforms to come.  I am not denying there could be a business or money-making interest here.  However, two things.

The main motive is to rid 660,000 poor vulnerable bastards of the pernicious bedroom tax and if that attracts political and electoral damage on the government then that’s just a bonus as they deserve it for introducing the bedroom tax.  I am genuinely ambivalent to that and note my Speye Twitter description which says I hate vulnerable people getting shafted by ANY government – my key motive is moral and not political (as well as being an arrogant son of a bitch who thinks he can solve problems of course!)

Secondly, the idea of all 660,000 challenging a Benefit Decision Notice to impose the bedroom tax is just one idea and there are and will be more.  Yet it is the most productive one I have seen yet to solve the bedroom tax policy, it does have merit and legs to get rid of it in the quickest timeframe –  the what WE can DO collectively part.

The right people will know how to find me if they agree with any of this flight of fancy and yes ok I have been watching Borgen too much…Yet I for one can’t stand simply stand aside and watch IDS and his spin machine outflank and outmanoeuvre the piss poor challenges the Labour Party and the social landlords are coming up with! My genuine concern for vulnerable people being shafted is much bigger than my ego or my bank balance. Is yours?

8 thoughts on “The Bedroom Tax – what I KNOW and what WE can DO?

    1. Some tenants have received letters from their landlords to say the bedroom tax may apply to them. Any such letter is simply a letter and for the bedroom tax to apply to any tenant your will receive a formal letter from the council HB department. When a decision is taken by the Housing Benefit department that the bedroom tax applies you will receive a “Benefit Decision Notice” (BDN) and this by comparison is a legal letter. Even if your landlord is the council they will need to send you a formal letter from the Housing Benefit department to notify you about the bedroom taz. The BDN will say how you can appeal the decision and you have a legal right of appeal and I copy below what these letters from one Council say and wherever you live this will be very similar. It says: – “If you want to know more about this decision or think it is wrong, you must tell us within one month of this letter or we may not be able to help. You can either: • Ask for an explanation • Ask us to look again at the decision • Appeal against the decision – this can only be in writing. If you appeal against the decision an independent tribunal administered by the Tribunal Service will hear your appeal.”

      In short – ‘explain’, ‘look again’ and ‘appeal’ are your basic options. You can write asking for the council to send a more detailed explanation to you which you can then consider with a view to issuing a latter appeal or asking the council to look again after they have sent you the more detailed explanation.

      The content of each challenge as I set out in the blog above is what I am asking those experienced in such ‘appeals’ to help draft and then make available

  1. I’m just wondering… could everyone who this doesn’t affect currently but are within the social housing, also ask for this information from the council as it will have an effect on them at a later date when children leave home.

    Once they have received [or requested] this information, if it exists, the next stage could be worked on. Surely everyone in social housing has a right to do this, affected or not, as its a change that will be applied when circumstances change and it also technically affects people who will never have a spare “bedroom,” such as in a 1 bed flat as they can technically have a spare room if the bedroom is separate from the other living area as the HA for social tenants can and does count available “rooms” the only people who cannot be affected, even if is a technical point, are people in openplan or bedsits.

    That should get the numbers up massively 🙂

  2. I don’t always agree with you on this blog Joe but I always find it thought-provoking and I’m with you on this one.

    Why doesn’t everyone ask for more information AND THEN ask them to look again at the decision AND THEN appeal: 660,000 tenants becomes almost 2,000,000 contacts to deal with!!

  3. i dont think we are going to be able to do anthing i have appealed ,complained had council officer here , all they say is move if cant pay , but if stay then gota pay or i will loose home threw debt … im in council flat …

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