Sefton Council in Merseyside are so uber-efficient that they can review their own bedroom tax HB decision in 90 seconds. Surely they should be selling this novel method to every single council up and down the land and they probably would if it wasn’t unlawful of course.
Take this real-life example that has happened numerous times and been witnessed and timed.
- A tenant walks into a one stop shop with a standard letter asking for more information on how Sefton Council made the bedroom tax decision
- The tenant and HB claimant hands in the letter and the clerk on the desk takes the HB reference number of the tenants letter and punches it in to the computer in front of her.
- 90 seconds later the tenant is given a three page standard reply on Sefton Council letterhead which says: –
“I have looked again at the benefit decision made in your case and from the information currently available to me, I can find no fault in your award of benefit as notified in the benefit decision letter.”
This constitutes a REVIEW of the benefit decision according to Sefton Council!
Yes I kid you not and the above scenario has been witnessed numerous times although on one occasion it took a whopping 2 minutes and 30 seconds – a full 66% longer than the quickest time so surely the highly trained Housing Benefit staff on the counters at Sefton’s One Stop Shops should be reminded of this tardiness and inefficiency!
Yes of course I am being facetious and the OSS staff are not HB trained and especially not suitable to conduct a review of a Housing Benefit decision, though Sefton Council clearly believes they are and Sefton Council clearly believes this is not unlawful and this charade constitutes a review of a HB decision!
I wonder what the appeals tribunal will make of this sham of a policy!!!!!!!!!!
Hang on, this wouldn’t be the same Sefton Council who: –
- issued its alleged decision notices 10 days ahead of the bedroom tax changes to foster carers and
- on a notice that did not inform the claimant (tenant) of their right of appeal and in breach of the bedroom tax guidance, and
- gave out DHP forms to all tenants asking for further information on / explanation of their decision and then bemoaned that DHP applications had risen 9-fold is it?
Yes its that same Sefton Council!
Is this the same Sefton Council that refused to take 58 appeals against the bedroom tax? Yes the same Sefton Council! What a good track record they have of denying HB claimants and tenants their rights eh reader?
Is this the same Sefton Council who closed their One Stop Shop on ‘Health and Safety grounds’ and refused to let anyone in citing there were too many people wanting to submit requests for explanation?
Yes the very same Sefton Council
Is this the same Sefton Council who will now receive letters from tenants saying that they refute that the Council has reviewed their individual decision and will ask the Council to review their decision again? Yes the same Sefton Council!
Is this the same Sefton Council that no tenant and claimant and no tribunal could have any confidence in getting the original decision made correctly? Yes the same one!
Is this the same Sefton Council who in their standard reply to the standard questions asking for more information say “A room is either a bedroom or is not a bedroom” – Yet also say they have no definition of what a bedroom is? The same Sefton Council who can only impose the bedroom tax deduction on a bedroom and not on a mere room which they choose not to define? Yes one and the same!
Is this the same Sefton Council who when asked for what data they requested from each landlord refuse to answer that question and refuse to give to the claimant? Yes one and the same!
Is this the same Sefton Council who when asked for what specific individual data they received back from the landlord – yes the same who do not have to provide any data at all as paragraph 20 of the A4/2012 says unambiguously – say “we cannot release the full list of data provided by our landlord as this would contravene the Data Protection Act? Yes the very same and despite the tenant / claimant not asking for anyone else’s details! It appears Sefton cannot read and understand unambiguous English wording! Again such confidence is inspired in their decision-making capacity isn’t it reader!
Oh dear! So what is the public purse cost to Sefton Council of having to go back and review again up to 3666 bedroom tax decisions properly? Perhaps the woeful DWP estimate of £200 per time may limit this to £733,200. But then at the risk of having every bedroom tax decision overturned at an appeal tribunal due to their self-evident past history of incompetence and ease of administrative cost one would imagine Sefton Council will pay very close attention to all the reviews it will be asked to do again and properly by the tenants and so the cost will increase.
I really do think Diane Turner, the Benefits Manager in whose name this farce of a letter is signed is really Wonder Woman. How she can look again at each and every individual HB decision made on the bedroom tax in 90 seconds is a superhuman feat! How lucky the Director of Corporate Finance and ICT at Sefton Council, Margaret Rawding is to have such a superhuman employee to carry out her decidedly unlawful policy of these micro-reviews of bedroom tax decisions.
What is the last line of these standard replies…oh yes..”If you have any concerns with the content of this letter, please contact me again.”
You know what reader, I think a few may well take up that invitation don’t you?
How will these letters begin?
Dear Diane Turner and Margaret Rawding,
I refute that you have conducted a review of the decision Sefton Council took in deciding to impose the bedroom tax deduction in my individual case. I ask you conduct a proper review of this decision in accordance with lawful and good practice.
Yes something along those lines and the tenant / claimant can then use some of the above reasons which are all constants in this charade from Sefton Council to explain why no such review has taken place. The tenant may also want to ask why Sefton Council maintain releasing their individual data passed by their landlord to the Council is in breach of the DPA? Or why Bury Council had no such problem in releasing it to their tenants as I discussed here?
Additionally Sefton tenants and in fact all tenants everywhere may want to write to their landlords asking (a) why they chose to release data to the Council and (b) what data they specifically released to the Councils. As landlords had no obligation whatsoever to release any data and the tenant has been adversely affected by their landlords choice in releasing data I am surprised why I have not heard of any tenants taking legal action against their landlords for releasing data they did not have to release. Read paragraph 20 of the A4 of 2012 and you will see this and also that even the DWP say it is in landlords interests to release data (and not the tenants?) Of course the landlord only has data which the Councils have to process into information as data only becomes information when it is process. Yet of course Sefton Council like all others simply DECIDED to accept the landlords view on the number of bedrooms despite the clear vested conflict of interest landlords had and have in this matter.
Sorry reader I digress from the main thrust of this post and the repeated and consistently disgraceful and unlawful actions of Sefton Council in taking these unreliable bedroom tax decisions and its sham of a review of those unreliable original decisions and seeking to deny vulnerable tenants and HB claimants their legal rights. No, hang on Joe that just about sums it all up!