Today case F was reported in Glasgow, yet another successful bedroom tax appeal case and this time the judge found the bedroom tax policy breaches the human rights of a disabled person. This is an incredibly significant judgment and covered in full chapter and verse effect here.
To date 6 out of 8 reported appeals have been successful and on room size, room purpose, room usage, appropriateness of deeming a room a bedroom, a room being fit for the purpose of a bedroom, a room never intended or ever used as a bedroom and now the human rights breach.
One wonders what grounds tomorrow’s bedroom tax appeal will succeed upon as it really has become a case of the judiciary confirming the policy to be as well designed as a betamax video recorder and systemically ruling it is a back of a fag packet policy.
The Glasgow case F decision contains a number of very interesting legal points and I choose not to comment on them all and do so from the outset that this decision does NOT mean the bedroom tax discriminates against all disabled persons and breaches all disabled person’s human rights, which perhaps inevitably now that we have 10 million ‘expert’ commentators on the issue across social media, some will say.
However there are some very important generic points that can be gleaned from this case for ALL tenants who should all appeal. The judgment lays out the FACTS of the case which are undisputed and the real point of interest here is not that ‘F’ has Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis but that the original decision was taken by the council WITHOUT any knowledge of the facts.
Like all 660,000 bedroom tax decisions taken the facts ONLY emerge after and only when the tenant appeals. Before that time the council who took the decisions has no idea of the facts of each case. That is just plain wrong and a huge appeal ground of itself.
How can a public authority (the local council) impose the bedroom tax deduction without knowing what the facts are? That is not only illogical it is downright offensive and unjust. It’s a case of we think we know so we will apply the bedroom tax. More specifically it’s a case of we think we know because a (vested interest) landlord has told us their view and part of the issues and we have decided as a council to base our decision on that partial and vested interest view.
Moreover the principal reason for this is that it would have been too costly for the council to check each case for the facts and so councils imposed it based on a guess…hoping that only a few would appeal as we British show undue deference to authorities such as councils and tend to think if the councils says so it must be right.
Appealing is not part of the British nature, yet as this case (and all the others) demonstrates the ONLY way to get a correct and lawful decision, which we the British expect, is to appeal. The only way for the council, the decision making body, to find out the facts is IF the tenant appeals.
Many mistook my call for all tenants to appeal as a form of direct action. Yes it is but only by default. Appealing IS the ONLY way to have the facts considered and a just and correct decision reached. That is a national scandal and has all come about by this government (a) refusing to define a bedroom and (b) issuing local government with what now surely must be legally irrational guidance in the form of the A4/2012 HB circular – the bedroom tax guidance.
In simple terms how the hell can a local council decide if you have too many bedrooms if they refuse to define what a bedroom is!! That has always been the issue and it still remains as the issue for ALL cases.
I’m sure the coalition who in terms of welfare reform and the bedroom tax in particular would swear black was white would proclaim the bedroom tax policy a triple A policy – Yes I agree if they mean Appeal, Appeal, Appeal as that is what every tenant must now do.
To return to case F I would direct attention to paragraphs 20 and 21. Paragraph 20 says in accordance with rule 34(2)(b) of the Tribunal Rules 2008 the judgment is covered in chapter and in verse. In simple terms the whole kit and caboodle is given with reference upon reference to many Human Rights cases and legal precedence.
Yet paragraph 21 is easier to understand as it states a bedroom tax decision must be (a) made on the facts of each individual case, and (b) the facts as they appeared at the time the decision was taken. This is hugely important.
As I have already covered, the facts of each individual case ONLY become known IF a tenant appeals and that is just wrong as it means each original decision was NOT taken on the facts; rather on wetting a finger and sticking it up to see which way the wind is blowing.
The facts at the time the decisions were taken are also of huge significance too. We know that all the 660,000 original decisions were taken between July 2012 and March 2013 as that is when the guidance was released and up until all decisions were notified to tenants. Now we also know that every council and every landlord has said words to the effect that you signed for a three bed tenancy it says so on your tenancy agreement therefore it IS a 3 bed property, no ifs not buts!
Yet the judge here and in the Fife judgments were both very clear it’s the facts at the time the decisions were taken, so if you signed your tenancy agreement 30 years or 3 years ago what the tenancy agreement says is NOT determinative at all. Shock horror tenancy agreements just like any other contract can contain wrong information!!!!
Or if you want the cynical and easy response when councils and landlords have said it’s a 3 bed as your tenancy says so they have been talking out of their backsides!
When I drafted the standard letter which was downloaded at least half a million times which simply asked 6 very reasonable questions of councils as to HOW they made the decisions I was sent response after response from councils up and down the country.
- It’s up to the landlord to decide they all said – the judges say no it is not!
- It’s what your tenancy agreement says was another universal response – the judges say no it is not
I could go on and on here with so many other universal ‘truths’ that landlords and councils came up with which the judges have said and ruled are universal MYTHS!
As I have maintained from day one it is all about the decision making process that councils undertook and them making decisions based on myth and NOT on fact, and only having to consider the facts of each individual case if and when the tenant appeals. Just how wrong is it that a local council, a public body and authority imposes the bedroom tax deductions which give makes life-changing decisions to tenants and is based on speculation and the word of a vested interest!
That decision making process is not only a sham it is a national disgrace.
All 660,000 decisions are legally questionable even if you have 3 bedrooms the size of football pitches. Yet the ONLY way the tenant who is faced with life changing decisions can get a decision fairly and properly and correctly decided is to go to the courts!
Perhaps that truth will give Raquel Rolnik some more ammunition as to what a despotic and undemocratic welfare system we have in Britain and what an unlawful policy the bedroom tax is. Though I suspect by the time she writes her report next year the bedroom tax itself will be in tatters and her report unneeded to help get rid of it.
Appeals take 5 to 8 months to get to the tribunals and many more appeals will be reported over the coming months because of this timeframe. The first ones have seen case after case be successful and on some very obvious grounds such as room size, room usage and storing disability equipment. Now we have a policy found in case F to be “…not justified and…manifestly without reasonable foundation” (para 47) which has breached the human rights of a severely disabled household.
Over the next few weeks we will hear and read many more appeal judgments and many will follow the first cases as the judges can easily see and more importantly rule upon the pernicious and unjust and unlawful aspects of the bedroom tax policy and its sham of a decision making process.
It can’t be long now till this policy is as dead as a dodo and the way to ensure that is to appeal, appeal, appeal.
Finally, huge and well deserved congratulations to Mike Dailly and his colleagues at the Govan Law Centre for a very cleverly argued case here which is incredibly significant, though as he is not Brazilian and not a female I wonder what (xenophobic and sexist) Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps will be saying about this!!
APPEAL – APPEAL – APPEAL – APPEAL – APPEAL – APPEAL