A bedroom tax letter all councillors should read

2 April 2013

Mayor Joe Anderson

Liverpool City Council

Re: Bedroom Tax

Dear Mayor,

I am writing to you as a proud resident of this fair city who is not affected by the bedroom tax with a simple request.  This is when up to 11,680 social tenants launch a formal appeal to the Housing Benefit decisions that Liverpool City Council has had to make; I request the City Council refuses to go to the cost of defending these decisions at court, the lower tribunal at 36 Dale Street.

Please note the 11,680 number does not include the mixed-age pensioner couple who will also be affected by the bedroom tax from October 2013, and possibly before that time, the numbers of whom are not available in the public domain.  The 11,680 social tenants affected will statistically include 28% or 3,270 Liverpool tenants who are working and 63.4% or 7,433 Liverpool tenant households with a disabled occupant.

There are two specific reasons why I make this seemingly unusual request for the City Council to not expend the cost of defending its decisions.

The first is that it would be uneconomic to do so and see the City Council commit to an estimated initial expenditure from hard-pressed City Council budgets of approximately £17.5m based on a cautious figure to the City Council of £1500 per appeal. That figure would undoubtedly rise as many of the 11,680 if indeed not all would wish to then take any such appeal to a higher court, the Upper Tribunal and beyond to the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. The bedroom tax affected social tenant could then ask the tribunal or court to overturn the original bedroom tax decision and solve this sorry state of affairs.

The second is that for the City Council to defend the centrally-imposed decisions on the bedroom tax to 11,680 social tenants is illogical and perverse.  The bedroom tax deduction in aggregate at a best guess sees 11,680 Liverpool tenants’ takes circa £7.6m out of the local economy of this great city of ours.  That £7.6m figure may likely translate into a much higher figure such as £20m with a multiplier effect and in any case would be a preposterous decision for the City Council to take.  Why would any council commit millions of pounds of its otherwise hard-pressed monies to defend a decision to take £20m out of the local economy!  Local businesses would of course be affected by this as would all parts of the local economy and this is a purely economic and correct decision for the City Council to take.  It is a not a political one and is in the best interests of all in the city regardless of political persuasion.

Any such decision of the City Council is entirely the decision of the City Council and entirely within its remit and purview.  It is a much better solution than some councils such as Bristol, Brighton and Darlington or even Dundee and the SNP in Scotland who have stated they will not evict the social tenant on bedroom tax grounds.  It is a much better decision than the Right Hon. Frank Field MP suggests when he advocates social landlord’s brick up alleged spare bedrooms or indeed knock down the walls of the same to make them mere communal spaces and not bedrooms.

It is an entirely economic decision and the right decision for the City Council to make.

I urge you to take such an economic decision so that the 11,680 social tenants do not have to endure a 14% or a 25% cut in their Housing Benefit which could be as much as 20% or even 27% on their existing JSA or IS which are subsistence level welfare benefits, if indeed they even are at that level.  The additional cost to City Council services and homelessness assessment and statutory responsibility to accommodate, the full homeless duty would also need to factor into any economic decision to defend these bedroom tax decisions.

I am at a loss to see how a Housing Benefit Officer can even make such a life-changing decision to a social tenant which the bedroom tax deduction is without ever having that tenant’s property viewed.  Yet this is what the City Council would do and every other council does if the tenant is a private tenant with a private landlord.  They ask the independent Rent Officer service to view and make a determination on the precise facts of each individual matter.  By contrast the social tenant has a desktop exercise conducted behind the closed doors of the Council’s Housing Benefit department!

That is not the City Council’s fault, yet it does accurately state the coalition government’s guidance and policy with the under occupation charge aka the bedroom tax and what all councils have done.  The social tenant is directly discriminated against in this procedure and treated far more harshly than the private tenant and private landlord who cost the Housing Benefit bill 30% or more in every case as we see a national average of £81.21 per week for the social tenant and £105.61 for the private tenant in the latest official figures.

Mr Mayor, I urge you to consider this suggestion which is I restate an economic judgement call and is the right decision that is entirely within your power and that of the City Council to make. You were elected to look after the best interests of this wonderful city of ours and I appreciate that means taking difficult decisions: Yet this one I advocate is in local jargon a ‘no-brainer’ and a decision you must take for the good of ALL in the city.

I await your considered response.

Yours sincerely

Joe Halewood

Proud Liverpudlian & concerned citizen

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

UPDATE FOLLOWING REQUESTS

WHAT IF YOU LIVE ELSEWHERE AND WANT TO USE THIS?  

Let’s take Bristol as an example as they too have a Mayor (although if you don’t have a Mayor simply address the Leader of the Council)

Step 1 – Change the name and address details to George Ferguson at Bristol

Step 2 – Google “MPs in Bristol” and you will find 4 constituencies in Bristol

Step 3 – Go to National Housing Federation figures for how many are affected by the bedroom tax and you will find 1029 in Bristol East, 973 in Bristol South; 870 in Bristol West and 881 in Bristol North West and a total of 3753 for the Bristol City Council area

Step 4 – Nationally 81% under occupy by 1 bedroom and 19% by 2 or more according to the DWP figures so you then:

(a)   Multiply the £528 1 bed figure by 81% to get £427.68

(b)   Multiply the £938 2 bed figure by 19% to get £178.22

(c)    Add these together and you get the average bedroom tax cut in Bristol of £606.90 per year

(d)   3753 affected at a an average of £605.90 is £2.274m

Step 5 – using a multiplier variable of 2.5 (yes this is reasonable but please ask an economist to explain) this means the £2.274m takes about £5.68m out of the local economy in Bristol.

Step 6 – Ask George Ferguson why his council would spend £5.63m of hard pressed local council money (3753 x £1500) defending a decision which takes £5.68m out of the local economy!! Additionally ask him where he will make £5.63m of cuts in council services to pay for this! Or if you want to disregard the multiplier at Step 5 ask him why he would spend £5.68m of local council money to defend a decision to take £2.274m out of the local economy!!!

Step 7 – Send a copy to the local chamber of commerce and to the local branch of the small business federation who will of course be worried about their members, local shopkeepers that will be worried sick about £5.68m being taken out of the local economy. As will your local evening paper and local radio station and your local…ok you get the picture! Not forgetting of course to ask how much this will see the Council Tax increase next year.

Yes even capitalists see the sense in what I am proposing here as it is an economic decision and an economic no-brainer.  A political argument wrapped up in an economic way? Perhaps.  Yet the numbers stack up and such a decision is a no-brainer despite that.

Psst – Don’t tell the Mayor or any council leader it will make them incredibly popular and look decisive and a leader which will all help their re-election campaigns.  Now c’mon people we don’t need to massage their egos any more now do we? Ahem!

 

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9 thoughts on “A bedroom tax letter all councillors should read

  1. Joe,
    WMBC said, last wk at a meeting, with community groups, that they have started receiving 1st letters requesting further info, and that the tenants should be careful that their homes are not re-evaluated which would cost us all more. WMBC also said they do not have a rent officer, they have an evaluator, and that the last time they were done was in 1990, is it just a scare tactic?

    1. 1. Social landlord errantly believe that HB will reclassify for them and they wont necessarily. 2. No council has a Rent Officer – it is an independent service run by VOA a government quango in simple terms. 3. HB regulations state clearly that where a RSL property is unsuitably large (surely the bedroom tax by any other name) that they can refer it to the Rent Officer 4. Not surprised last one was in 1990 as this regulation – which MUST be considered as part of the process – is so infrequently used

      How many appeal grounds do you see there?

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