Stephanie Bottrill WAS exempt not ‘should have been’ exempt from the bedroom tax as the media are saying today.
That is a fact and a very significant fact that should not be missed – All of the ‘pre-1996’ cases are exempt from the bedroom tax and all were exempt on 1 April 2013 when the bedroom tax came in as that is what the law says.
When she took her own life in May 2013 Stephanie Bottrill WAS exempt not ‘should have been’…she WAS, WAS, WAS, WAS, WAS EXEMPT …as a matter of FACT and as a matter of LAW.
The wording of the Guardian article (and so many others on this issue) is more than semantics. IF the DWP and Solihull Borough Council had not cocked up then would this tragic event have happened at all? Her suicide note blamed it on the bedroom tax in very unambiguous terms and that question becomes rhetorical.
There was widespread anger and other emotion when her death was reported and just as much now given that she WAS exempt. Yet we need to set aside the emotive arguments and look at what this means because it is precisely what I have said all along that the bedroom tax decision-making process was a sham
It is not just the pre-1996 issue that exposes the bedroom tax decision-making as a sham it is all those well-known arguments of what is a bedroom and how many bedrooms does a dwelling have…and what that meant. Local councils after strongly steered guidance from DWP in the A4 of 2012 did a sham process and one that was ‘expedient.’
Local councils never looked at the facts of each case as they should have they choose the most cost-efficient process that was riddles with assumption and with fettering their discretion and of simply choosing to believe the landlords word because it suited them to do so.
All of those sham issues led to Stephanie Bottrill dying.
The pre-1996 issue expose the sheer amount of work local councils are now going to have to do to find and ‘satisfy’ themselves in the DWP U1/2014 guidance that a tenant is exempt. Yet, that local councils making a reliable and considered bedroom tax decision that would have been satisfactory, should have been done in the first place.
Yet this point is not getting picked up as the press and Uncle Tom Cobley and all call this a loophole when in fact it was the rules and law and what councils should have done in the first bloody place for every bedroom tax decision but deliberately chose not to do as it would have cost local councils too much money.
Think on that for a second.
If local councils had done their job correctly and looked at each HB decision properly then the bedroom tax part of that, which was a huge undertaking admittedly on councils, would have seen very few decisions at all by 1 April 2013 when the bedroom tax came into effect.
Local councils simply did not have the time to do this and they were heavily pressured by DWP to make any sort of decision by 1 April. DWP engineered this sham process by burdening local government with unrealistic expectations and the primacy of getting the decision made by 1 April regardless of whether they were made correctly. You have x amount of time do the best you can in that time rather than do the job properly and as you have to do.
That is what led to the death of Stephanie Bottrill.
It also led to the untold misery and deprivation to all those bedroom tax affected households such as going without food, not having the heating on and facing losing their family home. It was and is based on a sham decision-making process of expedience and bugger all legal reliability.
Now we see that reality of the sham process absent from the minds of those who should know better. In the Guardian article which wrongly says ‘should have been’ instead of WAS exempt we see this: –
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “The discovery of this loophole nine months in will cause more confusion for tenants, some of whom will have had their housing benefit reduced in error. It also means more work for over-burdened local authorities.”
David Orr of the NHF has been the best of a bad bunch as far as challenging the bedroom tax of the ‘great and the good’ of social housing. Yet here he fails to see two critical points with these comments.
Firstly, using the term ‘loophole’ is a tactic (by DWP) to deflect away from their almighty cock up and get the focus on it just being an oversight that they will amend. It is not a ‘loophole’ as that belittles what has happened it is a monumental cock up.
Secondly, David Orr’s comments by focusing on how much admin work is needed now by local councils FAILS to see that this level of work and investigation and ‘consideration’ is what EVERY local council should have done in the first bloody place for EVERY bedroom tax decision.
The lack of regard for fact and getting the decision right which is what all public authorities have to do – their duty in other words – is what caused this mess in the first place!
Local authorities were overburdened with the bedroom tax and rushed and harangued by DWP to make the original decisions within a time scale and to hell with whether those decisions were right or reliable. Just get them bloody well made and to hell with whether they are sound decisions or considered decisions which of course we know they cannot have been. That has been my constant ‘beef’ all along with the bedroom tax, the sham process it was which led to vulnerable people getting shafted by expediency.
The DWP acted like overlords on a plantation whipping the HB officers at local councils to pick cotton and local councils fearing the crack of the whip of the DWP overlords picked more poor-grade cotton to make their daily quota so they could eat that night.
Local councils in making the bedroom tax decisions adopted a strategy of its better because it’s cheaper to make all decisions without any regard to fact than doing them right as it’s too costly – a sham process.
That sham process was adopted in the knowledge that the majority of HB claimants wouldn’t question the decision afterwards because the public have as a starting point the premise that because councils have to get decisions right as a matter of law and fact that they will get them right and do a proper job as they ought.
That is precisely why councils got away with this sham decision-making process and what we can no longer allow to happen or ever happen again.
Stick the ‘British reserve’ where the sun don’t shine and challenge every decision as no longer can the public rely upon a public authority doing the right thing as a starting point. That ‘Britishness’ that ‘tug your forelock to authority’ and deference to authority was relied upon by DWP and local council to allow this sham process.
- It is that sham that caused huge amounts of public purse expenditure in reviewing bedroom tax decisions and in appealing bedroom tax decisions.
- It is that sham that will cause even greater cost to the public purse in the court costs in increased NHS admissions and in domestic violence and criminal justice costs.
- It is that sham process that causes so much deprivation to those affected of skipping a meal a day to keep a roof over your head.
- That sham process that will see children go hungry (rickets anyone?)
- That sham process which sees electricity and gas companies put up their prices for everyone because the overall usage has gone down because the bedroom tax shafted tenant no longer puts the heating on with the inevitable response that the power companies increase costs for all to maintain their turnover and profit.
- It is that sham that caused the death of Stephanie Bottrill.
The Stephanie Bottrill issue is a shame. The why it was allowed to happen is the SHAM and so much more than a shame.