I have always maintained every single one of the 660,000 bedroom tax decisions were unreliable and should be appealed against on procedural grounds, or in short, HOW the decision was taken.
I may well have just found the smoking gun which proves my point and procedural grounds does apply to all 660,000 decisions made on the bedroom tax
It is a letter of response to a bedroom tax affected tenant from Pembrokeshire County Council (below) which like all Councils we have seen to date, made the decision on what a bedroom is by asking the landlord for information as all councils were advised to do. Yet now – and this is the smoking gun – AFTER making the bedroom tax decision they Council is asking tenants to measure their rooms to assess if they are a bedroom or not.
All 660,000 bedroom tax decisions to my knowledge have NOT seen any Council ask landlords for the size of alleged bedrooms – they have simply accepted the landlords view or opinion that they are indeed ‘bedrooms.’ Yet now and ONLY after a tenant queries the size are they looking into whether a bedroom is in fact a bedroom or not!
The Councils can only apply the bedroom tax deductions on a bedroom and not on any alleged spare ‘room’ and so for any bedroom tax decision to be reasonable or valid or reliable and not be thrown out of court, each and every Council must reasonably KNOW what a bedroom is and how many bedrooms each property has.
Yet ONLY considering room size AFTER THE FACT means that all original decisions have to be unreliable for the purpose of applying the bedroom tax deduction.
Councils in housing benefit decisions act as agents of the DWP who make most welfare benefit decisions. The DWP does not award JSA or DLA based on assumption they only make benefit decisions based on fact. If any benefit decision is made based on assumption it is unreasonable and unreliable and deserves to be struck out at court or tribunal.
Put this another way, how can the same council decide room size is not an issue in making the decision but then decide it is an issue should the claimant appeal against it?
Pembrokeshire Councils view comes a few days after Bristol City Council’s AFTER THE FACT decision to send out surveyors to measure room size IF a claimant (the tenant) appeals. Again how can Bristol maintain it is ok not to include bedroom size in its original decision yet then decide it is a pertinent issue IF and only IF a tenant claimant appeals?
Every Council across the country has not considered bedroom size in their original decisions and this comes from – as I have always stated – a fundamental misreading of paragraph 12 of the A4/2012 guidance that every Council says they have followed.
The Pembrokeshire Letter
On a day when Inside Housing has run a scurrilous attack on me for advocating that all 660,000 tenant households have legitimate appeal grounds based on procedures and instead try to discredit me and the valid legitimate arguments of procedure of all tenants as a mere stunt or clogging up the system tactic, the temptation to say I told you and especially the CIH so is high.
Yet, this issue is far more important and in fact Inside Housing journalist Carl Brown who wrote the article is in effect saying the bedroom tax appeal on such grounds in unworthy and less of an appeal than any other claimant appealing say s DLA or JSA benefit decision! That is outrageous and downright offensive to all tenants.
Last week I proved the CIH view was wrong and factually incorrect and that too was based on their ASSUMPTION that all tenants do not have legitimate cause, as well as being a biased view on behalf of CIH members, the social landlords who have and always have had a conflict of interest in the bedroom tax decision making process. They want and need to classify and define their properties to have as many bedrooms as possible for rental income and for asset value and they have a vested interest and conflict in repeating the mantra that the 1985 Housing Act does not apply to the bedroom tax decision. Yet here we have two councils AFTER THE FACT admitting that the 1985 Housing Act does apply.
Too little and too late for these Councils and for all others as their actions reveal that bedroom size is pertinent and needed to be considered as PART OF the decision-making process and not only if a tenant appeals. I fail to see how any tribunal or court can see this otherwise.
Get those appeal in people and before you finally draft them take a look at the excellent work Shelter has produced over the appeal process and procedure. Shelter often produce very good work but in this case they have gone way above that. Finally also look at the how and why of appeals I drafted last week which has links to Govan Law Centre bedroom tax toolkit and Carers UK’s work as well as references to the official tribunals How to appeal brochure.