Tory council rebels against the bedroom tax – the beginning of the end? Now confirmed!

UPDATE 10 August 2013 – A post those opposed to the bedroom tax will enjoy!

Back in June I reported that Welwyn Hatfield Council, a Tory Council no less, were going to classify any room of less than 50 square feet as NOT being a bedroom.  As you can see below in an update to the original post that is precisely what they have done.

So to all the rest of the spineless councils up and down the country hang your heads in shame and get your bloody fingers out!!

The original post

The 1985 Housing Act section 326 (c) reads: –

No account shall be taken for the purposes of either Table of a room having a floor area of less than 50 square feet.

To put into ordinary everyday language a room can NOT be a bedroom if it has a floor area of less than 50 square feet.

Now see below a report from the Welywn & Hatfield Times which is a lot more interesting that it first appears.

  • Here we see a Conservative dominated council (34 out of 48 seats) coming out against the bedroom tax – very significant.
  • Secondly, this is the parliamentary constituency of Grant Shapps MP (aka Sebastian Fox and Michael Green) the former Housing Minister and now Chairman of the Conservative Party – very significant indeed!!
  • Thirdly, Welwyn Hatfield has the highest percentage of social housing in the country in terms of Housing Benefit claimants with some 87% of HB claimant sin social housing compared to the national average of 67%If the bedroom tax downsizing agenda can’t work there it can’t work anywhere!

The article:

A reclassification set to be discussed today (Thursday) could see officials try to circumvent controversial benefit reforms. Roughly 100 three bedroom houses look set to be classed as two bedroom homes, as one of the rooms is less than 50 square feet. Under plans being weighed up, the third bedroom would be classed as a box room – meaning tenants will not be hit in the pocket.

A government shake-up means benefit claimants now receive lower payments if they have a spare room in their council or housing association-owned home. More than 800 households have been affected in Welwyn Hatfield. Several other four-bed homes will be relabelled as three bedroom properties.

Conservative councillor Roger Trigg, executive member for housing, said:

“We think some 50 square feet is small enough to not be a bedroom, it might be enough for a little computer study. “I think it is unfair to the tenants when it is that small to call it a full size bedroom when it comes to the bedroom tax – if I am allowed to call it that, the spare room subsidy.”

Condemnation of the Conservative-led cuts united leaders of the opposition parties, with both the Lib Dems and Labour anticipating the changes. Labour group leader Kieran Thorpe said:

“The bedroom tax is bad enough without being classed as a box room. “It is wrong to punish people for having an empty cupboard and it shows the amount of extra work that this council is having to do in dealing with this unfair piece of legislation.”

Lib Dem group leader Tony Skottowe said:

“This was almost inevitable given the legislation. “When you look at the legislation, there is going to be some impact, and some of the legislation is frankly daft – some of it is really quite silly.”

This really is significant if the true blue Tory councils come out against it.  Yes part of me wants to forgive the Tory councillors for trying to get some PR on this when the law has stated for 28 years that anything under 50 square feet cannot be called a bedroom, but hey this would appear to be the beginning of the end for the bedroom tax…as even Tories label this pernicious policy!!

UPDATE

  • Tory Councils more tenant friendly than Labour run ones anyone?  What a turn up for the books this and incredibly significant even if Welwyn & Hatfield don’t vote this through (which they may have already done as I write!)
  • Now is the time for everyone opposed to the bedroom tax policy to start lobbying Labour Councils to not only match this under 50 square feet decision but to go one better and declare that any room between 50 and 70 square feet is in effect half a bedroom as the same 1985 Housing Act states.
  • It is also the time to start lobbying every single social landlord to agree to this as well and reclassify all their properties accordingly.  As I outlined yesterday and again today this is in social landlords financial interests to do so

UPDATE – 10 August 2013

And here is the minutes and the council decision:

Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust Monitoring Report Quarter 4 2012/13 and Reclassification of Bedrooms in Council Homes 

Cabinet
9 July 2013
The Panel had received a report providing monitoring information on the
performance of the Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust which also
detailed measures taken by the Trust to reduce the possible negative impacts
of the recent Government welfare reform (Minute 7).
The Panel recommended that Council homes with one bedroom which was
less than 50 square feet (4.65 square metres) be reclassified so that a room of
this size or smaller was not classed as a bedroom for welfare reform purposes.
RESOLVED:
That the Panel’s recommendation be approved and Council homes with
one bedroom which was less than 50 square feet (4.65 square metres)
be reclassified so that a room of this size or smaller was not classed as
a bedroom under the Government’s welfare reform.

So how many councils have previously said – oh no we cant do this!  We are not allowed to do this! That is a false reading of statutory interpretation and we cant do, blah, blah, blah, blah!

So now you know reader they were excuses all along

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14 thoughts on “Tory council rebels against the bedroom tax – the beginning of the end? Now confirmed!

  1. Joe, does this mean that some tenants who have paid their bedroom tax will be receiving a refund from their social landlord when their homes are reclassed with fewer bedrooms? Will the reclassing be backdated to 1st April? Are the councils looking forward to having to process payments of HB that were withheld and now have to be sent to the social landlord? Geez…

  2. i actually brought this up with my housing helena and i was told that the 50ft rule if you like was only used when applying for housing so if you lodge at someones house and the room youve got is less than 50ft then it would be classed as overcrowding it didnt count when it came to bedroom tax

  3. the only thing is the government are trying to go against the act everyone knows a bedroom that is 50/70 square feet is not classed as a bedroom but a box room i had one at my previous tenancy years ago ..the government should scrap the bedroom tax as we all pay rent and council tax why pay more .

  4. I disagree in that I think that it should be abolished all together, if this goes through there will be animosity from those who have rooms that are 71 square or over including myself. If you abolish it for one class of room it has to be abolished for all because the finished result of that will be some people are still being penalised. Get rid of it altogether!! I have a spare room, and this tax affects me, my smallest room is bigger that than 50 and its bigger than 70 square feet and i’m struggling to pay that as well as everything else. I find it horrendous that I have to start paying for a room that I have had for 12yrs, It isn’t spare anyway, it’s used as a storage room to house things like bedding, lawn mowers etc. as i have no storage cupboards or shed. That’s irrelevant though, but what is relevant is if you get rid of it for some , it must be abolished for all because whether it’s a box room or not we still can’t afford it!! It;s almost like saying to a group of children “half of you will have to pay for your sweets but the rest can have them for nothing!” it’s senseless and it id unfair. The fact that they have placed a tax on rooms anyway seems ludicrous to me but I feel that if they wanted to penalise people with spare rooms It would have better to tax those up and coming tenants who may chose a bigger house knowing that would have to pay for the privilege, that way people wouldn’t be unwittingly under-occupying a house.

  5. I do agree with you Elizabeth….. It needs to be banned for everyone. My 3rd. Bedroom is also, over this size. So, it is unfair. But, by the same token, this is a start… You’re not allowed to rent out a room smaller than this in the private sector, so it applies to social housing as well… All, I can stress is APPEAL…. It’s NOT to late.. You can give reasons, such as you were ill and did not realise you could appeal…. It’s against your Human Rights and your right to family life…..I belong to a Facebook Appeal group. And we are slowly getting people with the news that they are exempt.. And, we are fighting to get it abolished.

  6. thanks Debbie I have appealed and applied for DHP and it was refused. I have sent them a letter asking on what grounds i failed to meet the criteria and also how they came to the decision that my spare room is indeed a spare room as no-one has been to confirm it. I too get involved in aiding to get it abolished.

  7. South Norfolk Council have not called a room less than 50’sq a bedroom for some time when it comes to overcrowding so they must use the same criteria for BT! 🙂

    Appendix A South Norfolk Housing Allocations Scheme Cabinet March 2012
    legislation will be used as an aid in assessment. The Council will use
    the following guidelines to assess the level of overcrowding:
    o A single person aged 16 or over requires one bedroom.
    o A couple require one bedroom.
    o Two children of a different sex, where one is aged 10 or over,
    require 2 bedrooms.
    o Rooms measuring less than 50 square feet will not be counted
    as a bedroom

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