Bedroom tax – the sham not shame that saw the death of Stephanie Bottrill

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.


17 thoughts on “Bedroom tax – the sham not shame that saw the death of Stephanie Bottrill

  1. Call me confused if you like but the back and forth over this issue has left me unclear on whether a person is exempt if they have been living in the same accommodation since before 1996 or if they have been living there and claiming HB for that entire period of time.

    Does a person have to have been claiming or is it the tenancy itself that exempts them?

    1. Have to be ‘in receipt’ of the regs say so that means a claim. And the claimant or person is exempt in the pre 1996 issue not the tenancy itself. “Exempt accommodation” is a specific term with a specific meaning in HB regs and nothing to do with the pre 1996 issue

  2. There appears to be ‘a rumour’ going round Facebook.
    That the DWP are going to ‘shut the Pre 1996 loophole’ within 14 days.

    Any thoughts on this please?? Joe Halewood.

    1. They would either need to strike out the legislation (rather hard to do actually as they would also need to check other legislation just in case its removal caused other legislation to be impacted/re-instated/made null and void) or to either bring in a change to the BT legislation “in law” (as apposed to a direction) or bring in further additional legislation…

      I’m guessing that its not going to be easy to change the legislation, on the fly, without it going through the chambers, so the DWP cant just amend it “because they want to, or IDS thinks its right.” If they try to force it through parliment quickly (as with the working regs/workfail) I expect it may fail…

      My guess is that it will be quietly ignored if they can’t find a quick or easy way around it till after the election or else it will be seen as an almightly cock up, which it is, and would damage any election campaign by showing how either they “get rid of it, cos they are nasty” or “failed to write correct legislation, while using “directions” to circumvent the law.” (A trick the DWP and IDS like to pull at every opertunity)

  3. Yes Stephanie Bottrill was exempt and forced to pay money she did not owe, but Joe, you must know by now the press won’t report this as it is. Do you remember when with the help of your blogs and Fife Law centre, I won one of the first appeals. I spent days going through the legislation and guidelines and you don’t have to be a lawyer to see the whole thing is a sham. I pointed out goodness knows how many flaws in the legal process and all the press were interested in was my L-shaped room. Dumbing everything down makes better copy.
    By suggesting that the DWP’s negligence and inability to write proper legislation is a ‘loophole’ is to imply that people are deliberately looking for an escape route to avoid paying what they are due. Yes, blame it on the people who have had this vile, pernicious and badly constructed legislation inflicted upon them. Make it seem as if the DWP are the victims of some sort of scam.
    What struck me about the bedroom tax legislation was that the government was bringing in new legislation without actually being able to repeal the housing acts, which legislation and guidelines to the councils actually breached. The Nazi’s did this, brought in new acts without repealing the old and they were all declared null and void. It surprises me that no one in the legal profession has examined the bedroom tax legislation for these breaches.

  4. This poor woman driven to suicide under the threat of losing her modest home didn’t need to die at all. Lord Freud is responsible for the disgraceful piece of legislation that caused her death. Let’s hope he is made aware of this as he enjoys the comfort and luxury of his £2.2 million London town house (bought and maintained with taxpayer’s contributions) and his listed country manor house which between them boast no less than 10 spare bedrooms now that all his 3 children have grown up and moved away. I expect his grandchildren will always have somewhere to stay with their grandparents still alive to love and play with them in the grounds and gardens of their ‘family homes’.

    1. If it does have to go “through the houses” as I think it does, it will still be possible if the LibDems side with the whips… the big issue will be if the libdems see this as “oh just side with the Con;s ffs, I am Cleg I am the LAW, lolol.” or “at last we actually have a chance to distance ourselves from the Cons and maybe get a few extra votes in 2015”

      My personal opinion is the Libs will be whipped within an inch of their lives, or expect retribution from Clegg, it will be upto individual members of the party as to if they follow the leader or their grass roots which have already decided that the bedroom tax is nothing more than a pernicious penny pinching load of shit! that in all probablility will cost more at the end of the day than if it had never been introduced… like most of the Con’s “back of the very expensive hand rolled cigar packet” policies… ie. hows that deficit doing, LOL, so much “austerity” and still a mounting dept… who was it who once said the definition of stupidity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome each time?

  5. Hope you are right Jonathan…………….

    I think all the labour MP’s should be doing something about this, after all, they have said they will abolish the BT, IF they win the election………..
    This should be raised in PM questions by as many of them as possible.
    To show, what an absolute cock up the whole policy is.

    And, it needs to be put before the Parliamentary Ombudsman

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