Just received this response from Bedford Council and I don’t know where to start as this is the most appalling and the most unlawful response I have yet seen to the standard 6 questions I drafted in the template letter. If any council can stoop lower in terms of unlawfulness and incompetence…well actually not only does that not bear thinking about reader, it is probably downright impossible!!
Thank you for your email received on 3 April 20134, please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.
Please see below the answers to your questions as raised:
1. A copy of the council’s written policy that includes a definition of a bedroom.
The Council does not require a written policy that includes a definition of a bedroom as the DWP Circular A4/2012 paragraph 12 states “there is no definition of a minimum bedroom size set out in regulations. It will be up to the Landlord to accurately describe the property in line with the actual rent charged” This is determined by your landlord and is stated on your tenancy agreement.
(a) No! This is an unlawful view of the HB officer role. Even if the landlord tells the council that a property is a 3 bed property then the council still has to decide whether to accept that landlord view or opinion or not.
(b) Paragraph 12 says nothing at all about the council needing a policy or not yet the absence of a policy is in itself I maintain unlawful and irrational. Without a policy on what a bedroom is how can any council decide that any tenant has too many bedrooms?
(c) Further the question does not specifically about bedroom size so why has the response been directed to that question which was not raised by the claimant?
(d) Moreover the absence of a policy written or not means that the council adopted a massively subjective and wholly arbitrary decision-making policy that I suggest is also unlawful.
2. Failing that a copy of the councils informal or working definition of what is a bedroom for under occupation / bedroom tax purposes.
The Council does not have an informal or working definition of what a bedroom is as this is not required as per the response to Question 1.
Please see (d) above and also (b)
3. A copy of the Council’s written policy which states precisely how the council makes a bedroom tax decision.
The Council does not have a written policy as this is not required as the Council is governed by A4/2012
(e) Please see (d) and also (b) above and also please explain how the council made the decision in the absence of any procedure?
(f) Does this also explain why at point (a) above you missed out the first part of paragraph 12 of the A4/2012 guidance?
(g) Is it your view that the council is only governed by HB regulation and not other statute as a decision-making public authority acting as the agent of the DWP or in any other capacity?
4. A copy of any letter or other correspondence you sent to my landlord (insert landlord name) asking for information about my property.
Again, as per circular A4/2012, all registered providers were required to provide details of the properties within the Councils’s area. If you dispute the number of bedrooms information provided by your landlord you will need to approach your landlord about this.
(h) Oh no they were not and this response ir both wrong and unlawful. Section 20 of the A4/2012 which the council says ‘governs’ the council says “There is no obligation on landlords to reply to a request for information.” Hence not only has the council misread the A4/2012 guidance which it says governs it, it has also informed the claimant with clear false information.
(i) The question asked for a copy of information you sent to the claimants landlord yet you have not answered the question
(j) The council has not provided a copy of the information request it made of the claimants landlord and as this is repeated in this response it becomes overt avoidance and potentially unlawful under the duties of a public authority
(k) The landlord is not a party to the bedroom tax HB decision and the council is giving out incorrect advice!
5. A copy of any correspondence you received back from my landlord in response to your request.
The data that was provided by your landlord included all the data for all their tenants so the Council is unable to provide you with all this information due to Data Protection. I have however shown your property details below.
(l) Refer to points (i) and (j) above
6. Does the council’s policy in making a bedroom tax decision differ from the guidance given by central government in the A4/2012 HB circular and/or the SI 3040 of 2012.
The Council’s policy does not differ from A4/2012 as A4/2012 is the policy.
(m) Please refer to points (a), (b), (d), (e), (f) and especially (h) above
The response continues:
You have the right of appeal if you feel the information provided by your landlord has been entered incorrectly onto the Benefit system and is therefore, causing the Housing Benefit to be calculated incorrectly. However, i have enclosed, for your information, a copy of your rent schedule, which was issued at the start of your tenancy in June 1990, which states that the property is a 3 bedroom house. This information would indicate that data provided by your landlord and held within the Housing Benefit system is correct.
(n) Please advise where in any regulation or statute the claimants right of appeal is commuted to certain areas?
(o) The bedroom tax decision like any benefit decision and appeal thereof (mental capacity issues aside) is wholly between the decision-making body, that is the council in this case and the claimant, the tenant. Please advise again where any HB regulation or statute provides for a third-party involvement in the decision-making process and any subsequent appeal?
(p) Is the council satisfied that a 23 year-old document is sufficient evidence upon which to make the benefit decision? That is has the council not consider ANY usage grounds at all and operated yet another blanket policy!
(q) In relation to (n) above please advise and forward copy of council’s policy and procedure that confirms this?
(r) Note point (q) above presumes your response is not a lie at points (a).(b),(d) & (g)
And some more
There is no right of appeal against the decision to apply the reduction in Housing Benefit based upon the size of the property that Housing Benefit has been calculated on . As previously stated if you dispute the information provided by your landlord in respect of the amount of bedrooms your property has you will need to take this up with your landlord.
Your SincerelyBenefit Manager.
Oh dear God! Can you f*cking believe this answer!!!
(s) Please advise where in any statute the decision-making duties of a council can be delegated to a third-party?
(t) Please advise anywhere in HB regulations the decision-making duties of a council can be devolved to a third-party?
(u) Please forward copies of council minutes that allows council policy to be made by the National Housing Federation!!!!
(v) Please advise any where in law (with the possible exception of Lewis Carroll novels) that states the National Housing Federation is the arbiter of statute and/or HB regulations?
No right of appeal based on property size? Really! Wow Bedford Council as judge jury and executioner with a blanket policy fettering their discretion! Does the apparent legal system in Bedford remind anyone of the Dukes of Hazzard?
(x) So the council believes a benefit decision to which the landlord is not a party sees the DWP’s agents – the council – believing that there is a legitimate third-party at play here! What’s that reader yes Bedford council slavishly governed by the A4/2012 the one which says the landlord has no obligation to provide any information now are deliberately passing away their duties in yet another unlawful way!
I make (x) the 24th letter of the alphabet and the next letter is WHY! So 24 reasons of process why all 825 estimated bedroom tax households in Bedford have clearly been decided in an outrageously disgraceful and unlawful way by a council that is not fit for purpose.
I wonder if Mayor Dave Hodgson or Chief Executive Philip Simpkins are wondering just how much this is going to cost Bedford Councils coffers to have to go back and redo 825 bedroom tax decisions? You think they will do the right thing and withdraw all of them now to save appeal costs or do you reckon they will be stubborn as well as ignorant mules and wing it? After all they see themselves as the Sheriff of this ole town don’t they?
To be deadly serious. Is there anyone out there who would care to offer up an argument that the bedroom tax decision-making process is not the biggest dog’s breakfast of a policy there has been. Is there anyone outside of IDS who believes ramshackle unlawful ignorant council HB officers are capable of taking life-changing decisions to the social tenant. Is there anyone out there who still believes the bedroom tax decision-making policy is NOT legally irrational and unworkable?
It would take a Smart man to say the bedroom tax process appeals are not worth it wouldn’t it reader?
PS Oops forgot to say that as the six questions are preceded with a request the council state what date appeals have to be in by….Yes guess what!! Yep I’ve run out of fingers and toes to count the disgrace and outrage this is!