Knowsley MBC is one of the 5 councils in Merseyside and the Council with the largest percentage of bedroom tax affected tenants in the North West and possibly in England. You would think they would know something about how to make a bedroom tax decision wouldn’t you…ahem!
Knowsley always comes in the top three of councils with indices of deprivation and has done for decades. You would think the Council there would have some experience of dealing with benefit claims. Yet all this shows is rank incompetence.
Shame then that their level of knowledge about the bedroom tax is so low and their incompetence is so high when it should be the other way around
Knowsley has almost 44% of its working-age tenants on HB caught by the bedroom tax as I stated here
First to note is it took 23 days to get a reply and after that it merely goes downhill and I have numbered the major points and will below the reply make some comments.
1. Quite why Knowsley MBC emboldened the ERRANT and INCOMPLETE information I do not know. The spare bedroom for an overnight carer only applies (a) if the Council agrees there is a need and (b) it only applies to the tenant or their partner and not for example to the child of the tenant..
Unfortunately this basic level of a lack of knowledge then goes even further downhill and questions do have to be asked about the competence of KMBC HB department.
2. (a) There is NO exemption for a disabled child. There is some discretion in every Council is a child is severely disabled enough (and how that is determined God only knows!) and only then if the Council agrees. (b) Approved foster carers – and those waiting to be approved – are exemptions but then only for 1 room and not more.
So that’s a further four errors of competence.
3. My records show. What precisely are those records? KMBC was asked for these yet failed to supply what their records did show. How convenient of the Council to fail to include these in their response when they were asked a straightforward question!
4. Information provided by your landlord INDICATES? It “indicates!” I see so the Council failed to verify the data (not information) that the landlord, who I remind had no obligation to provide any data whatsoever, provided. Yet again we see another Council that has simply believed the word of a third-party – the landlord – who has a vested financial interest and conflict of interest in this decision!! The Council goes on to say that the HB has been reduced on this basis AND the Council has not sought to check whether the rent set and charged by the landlord is correct. Like all Councils they have merely assumed it is and not sought to verify the rent level charged.
LET ME PUT THIS AS SIMPLY AS POSSIBLE. IF IT WAS UP TO THE SOCIAL LANDLORDS TO DEFINE HOW MANY BEDROOMS A PROPERTY HAS THEN ALL LANDLORDS WOULD HAVE SAID EVERY PROPERTY IS A ONE BEDROOM PROPERTY AND THUS AVOID THE BEDROOM TAX ALTOGETHER.
HENCE FOR ANY COUNCIL TO MERELY AND SIMPLY BELIEVE WHAT A SOCIAL LANDLORD SAID IS INCOMPETENCE WRIT LARGE AS THE COUNCILS HAVE TO VERIFY WHAT A BEDROOM IS AND HOW MANY EACH PROPERTY HAS
So a raft of appeal grounds there as to KMBC competence and the offensive way they have taken the decision based on ease of administrative cost rather than coming to the correct decision.
5. Bear with me there is another raft of appeal grounds in this short paragraph
5.1 This is a huge piece of misinformation by the Council. The DWP did not say there is not minimum bedroom size in legislation at all. The DWP said there is not a bedroom size definition set out in (HB) regulations – a very different thing altogether and a fundamental misrepresentation of the A4 /2012 guidance by Knowsley MBC.
5.2 The DWP did not say there will be no minimum size set out in legislation or in regulations. The DWP merely said there is no minimum size set out in regulations and made no comment whatsover about a current or future definition of a bedroom by its size.
For the avoidance of doubt on these two points here is precisely what DWP said in the first sentence of paragraph 12 in the A4 of 2012 HB circular and guidance:
We will not be defining what we mean by a bedroom in legislation and there is no definition of a minimum bedroom size set out in regulations.
5.3 It does indeed say in the second sentence of paragraph 12 that “It will be up to the landlord to accurately describe the property in line with the actual rent charged.”
However that doe snot mean the Council has to accept the landlord view. It also does not mean the Council had no obligation to verify this information, which they did. Again both of these are appeal grounds.
5.4 Your landlord has provided details of the number of bedrooms… – The Council is the decision-maker her and the Council has CHOSEN simply t believe the landlords view. Yet the Council has again not sought to verify this. Additionally the fundamental misreading of the guidance at 5.1 and 5.2 above by the Council is the issue and yet another appeal ground.
5.5. The final sentence, “…if you believe the information (sic – it was only data not information – see below) was incorrect please let me know.” This is the responsibility of the Council as the decision-maker to check as part of the decision and not for the tenant to verify or not after the flawed decision has been taken by the Council not verifying that.
6. This paragraph ends with “…provide details of why you believe your claim has been incorrectly assessed.”
The above points all form the reasons why the original decision was incorrectly and ineptly assessed and done by means of the cheapest possible administrative cost rather than taking the correct decision in the first place as the Council should have done!!
In summary this is in common parlance a joke of a process undertaken by Knowsley MBC. It is deeply offensive that the original decision was taken on unverified data provided by a third party with a clear conflict of interest and that third party – the social landlord – had no obligation to provide any such data at all.
Note Well: Data and NOT information.
The landlords provided data only. Data ONLY becomes information when it is processed yet the Council did no processing of that data at all and they did not even seek to verify it!!