UPDATE 16 JANUARY 2014
Yesterday in the House of Lords The (ig)noble Lord Freud stated that the pre 96 exempt cock up of the coalition would be changed in March 2014…subject to parliamentary time being available (and note that caveat). Doubtless the many thousands of experts the bedroom tax has spring up out of the ether will focus on that intention to amend. Yet read the Hansard report and you also find this:
My Lords, when the repayments have to be made by local authorities, will they be reimbursed by central government, since it is clearly not the fault of local authorities that this cock-up has occurred?
Lord Freud:Yes, my Lords, the payment will of course go through as housing payment in the normal way.
What is the significance of this? My post below from a few days ago about the Parliamentary Ombudsman is where the significance lies. Central government in the above Freud statement say they, central government. are clearly responsible for this cock up which means to all intents and purposes that (a) the government has admitted maladministration and (b) it is not the fault of local government.
Cue a rush of tenants who have had the bedroom tax wrongfully imposed launching maladministration cases to the Parliamentary Ombudsman!
As I reported earlier it seems the landlords in Merseyside are finding that 15% or so of their tenants are exempt and if correct in the largest LA Liverpool this would see 1650 households now exempt …and up to 1650 maladministration cases to the Parliamentary Ombudsman against the DWP.
This is interesting. Usually each Ombudsman claim is individual and I have never heard of a mass or class action Ombudsman case in which all 1650 take a case together. Yet has the Parliamentary Ombudsman got the resources to deal with 1650 cases just from Liverpool and more than 40000 across the country? Clearly it has not and so that raise the prospect of such a class action case with the Ombudsman in which 1650 separate cases all seek remedy for their injustice.
Just imagine the massive negative publicity this creates for the coalition and just how much this keeps the bedroom tax cock up (which it always has been) in the public eye….and just how much glee and hay can the opposition Labour MPs make of this cock up. For lets be honest that is what it is a cock up and not some loophole, its a cock up.
And a very expensive cock up too.
Firstly 40,000 cases at an average £730 per year is a reduction in the DWP proposed saving of about £30m per year.
Secondly, imagine if the Parliamentary Ombudsman awards nominal compensation of say £1500 to each case- that an other £60m making this a £90m cock up.
Thirdly, just how much local government cost will this realise in investigating 40,000 cases? If we say a nominal £60 or about two hours per case we can add a further £2.5m or so (and that does not include the cases investigated which are not exempt.
Fourth, what is councils refuse say 20,000 cases and these then go to an appeal tribunal with costs of between £400 and £1500 per case – that a further £19m cost to the public purse. Thats £111.5m so far wasted and of course should cases then go to Upper Tribunal…
Fifth – the early numbers in many LAs suggest my estimate of 40000 may well go to 50000 so the £111.5 m goes up to £140m or so
Sixth, the DWP estimated 660k households affected by the bedroom tax yet official DWP figures show this is 523k or a loss of projected savings of £728 per year for 137k cases or already before this pre 1996 farce an cock up £99.7m less
So far this is £220m less than IDS and his cohorts stated the ‘savings’ to be ….
Oh did I fail to estimate the hoardes of solicitors crawling out from under their stones launching compensation claims for the pre 1996 exempt cases for loss of secure tenancies, adverse credit records, stress and about 40 other reasons that the erroneously imposed pre 1996 bedroom tax cases have had to suffer! The legal bills for that I wouldnt dare to estimate excpet the lawyers wont be looking for derisory £1000 per case sums for this injustice and will be seeking far higher figures…and now that Freud has admitted it is central governments fault…(Yes dear reader you thought Freud coulnt get and dafter could you…and Lord David Anthony Freud Tory is Lord DAFT!)
OK – now in light of Freud admitting this was maladministration go back and read my original piece on this below….Oi keep that smirk off your face its very unbecoming….
All the pre-1996 exemption cases who have had the bedroom tax imposed upon them in error can and should issue complaints of maladministration against their local council AND against the DWP. I discuss how and why here.
Many thousands of tenants had the bedroom tax imposed upon them wrongly and are now found to be exempt with the ‘pre-1996’ issue have cause for complaint for the injustice the bedroom tax deduction has given them.
They all have strong grounds of ‘maladministration’ by their local councils using the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) and against the DWP with the Parliamentary Ombudsman or PO.
Maladministration – what is it?
In very simple terms both local and central government have not done what they should have done is a good way to look at what maladministration means. The wrongful bedroom tax imposition clearly falls into any definition of maladministration for the independent ombudsman services (LGO and PO) to investigate.
Both the LGO and PO will only investigate if an injustice has been caused yet this is clear with the bedroom tax deduction itself giving them less money and all it means by consequence of that such as skipping one meal a day to pay the bedroom tax etc.
The LGO website www.lgo.gov.uk looks at 11 areas of potential maladministration: –
“The law says the Ombudsman must look for ‘maladministration’. The definition of maladministration is very wide and can include:
- incorrect action or failure to take any action
- failure to follow procedures or the law
- failure to provide information
- inadequate record-keeping
- failure to investigate
- failure to reply
- misleading or inaccurate statements
- inadequate liaison
- inadequate consultation
- broken promises
The Ombudsman does not usually criticise the merits of a decision which has been properly taken simply because someone may disagree with it. He or she will however look at the way the decision was made.”
In the bedroom tax decision making process where local councils wrongly imposed the bedroom tax on the pre 1996 exempt cases it is easy to make the following arguments of maladministration.
- My local council failed to follow procedures and the law as if they had done then they would have seen the CPR 2006 regulations which is the law that exempts the pre 1996 cases.
- My local council failed to investigate my case as if they had done they would not have missed the pre 1996 issue found in CPR 2006 regulations.
- My local failed to have adequate liaison and failed to consult with me as they simply chose to believe the word of the landlords.
- My local council took incorrect action by imposing the bedroom tax in error of the law
I could go on but you get the point of how a maladministration case can be put together using arguments such as those above. The above brief arguments took 2 minutes off the top of my head so many more can be worked up.
However, they apply to your local council and using the LGO route of complaint so what about DWP and the PO route?
The tenant firstly has to complain direct to the DWP and in writing. Then if you don’t get a satisfactory response or no response the pre-1996 tenant asks their Member of Parliament to take up a PO complaint of maladministration on their behalf. So its a two-stage process but a simple one.
This means when you write to the DWP you should copy your complaint into your local MP. If he or she is a Labour or other opposition MP you can imagine how much they will like this opportunity as it holds political benefits just to mention they are taking a case of maladministration against the government’s hated bedroom tax!
[This is why Reclaim asked pre-1996 tenants to email them with their initial and post code to firstname.lastname@example.org as it captures a good idea of the numbers and provides a good idea of how many opposition MPs can be alerted to this DWP cock up.]
Grounds of maladministration against DWP?
DWP failed to follow procedures and the law as they did not see the CPR 2006 regulations AND they advised local councils who administer Housing Benefit on their behalf in the strongly steered bedroom tax guidance found in the HB circular A4/2012 that this exemption did not exist. At paragraph 10 of the A4/2012 the DWP state and very definitively state:
“Rates of reduction
Those that are considered to be under-occupying their accommodation will see a reduction in their housing benefit calculated by a reduction of:
14% of the total eligible rent for under-occupation by one bedroom; and
25% of the total eligible rent for under-occupation by two bedrooms or more.
This change will come into force for all existing and new claimants to Housing Benefit from 1 April 2013. There are no exceptions apart from those listed in paras 46-50.”
I have emphasised there are no exceptions apart from paras 46 – 50 (which concern caravans and barges and other non-pertinent issues to the pre 1996 position) and they do so with very definitive language “There are no exceptions…”
This is fundamental misdirection by the DWP to local councils and they have directed local councils not to follow the law in simple terms.
Secondly the DWP clearly failed to investigate the bedroom tax policy and this guidance they issued in the A4/2012 and in statutory instrument SI3040 of 2012 which enacted the bedroom tax.
Thirdly, the SI 3040 of 2012 states in its preamble that the Secretary of State for the DWP consulted widely before enacting the bedroom tax. Yet that cannot be the case and so the maladministration ground of failure to consult comes into play too. The SI 3040 states: –
“In accordance with section 176(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992(f), the Secretary of State has consulted with organisations appearing to him to be representative of the authorities concerned.”
Some have argued this is a standard line in every SI and it is. Yet here we see Iain Duncan Smith failing to consult the DWP! His own department who wrote the CPR 2006 regulations in the first place and this and any such oversight or ‘loophole’ as the DWP seeks to call this must be a failure to investigate and a failure to consult
As with the LGO maladministration cases the above are just a few very quick grounds of maladministration complaint that can be worked up.
Finally two very simple facts.
- You can issue a maladministration complain against the DWP and your local council and at the same time. It is not a case of either/or and the above brief arguments demonstrate there is merit in both being taken.
- You can list as many potential maladministration arguments as you wish yet it only takes ONE to be upheld for there to be maladministration. If like me you maintain that the pernicious bedroom tax policy should be challenged in as many (lawful) ways as possible then what the hell are you waiting for!