Liverpool City Council’s Housing Benefit team have just told me they know nothing at all about the pre 1996 exemption aka the DWP cock up!
The conversation I recall below and you have to ask just what sort of incompetent buffoons work in Housing Benefit in the council!
Karen – the claimant
A tenant I know put in a request for LCCHB to revise her bedroom tax decision in writing before Christmas. Her name is Karen…and she is also one of the volunteers at Reclaim my local grassroots anti-bedroom tax group.
Karen has worked part time since 1991 when she moved into her property and has appealed the bedroom tax decision on other grounds and has had back her tribunal ‘bundle.’ In this bundle prepared by LCC for the tribunal the council has included her HB form from 1991.
So straightaway we know that Liverpool has HB records going back before 1 January 1996 and these decisions should be very simple. Other councils may not have records going back this far but clearly Liverpool has!
The telephone call
I first spoke with a HB officer who knew nothing at all about the pre-1996 issue.
I asked him if he had seen the DWP U1/2014 HB circular and he said no.
I briefly explained the DWP has admitted the cock up and instructed councils to pay back tenants to be met with I know nothing about this!!
He went on to say often DWP say things to tenants but not to us!!!
At this juncture it of course necessary for me to (a) stop falling off the chair laughing and (b) speak to someone senior!
I asked to speak to the head of HB at the council and mentioned him by name.
The buffoon said there is nobody of that name that works here!! The thought even crossed my mind how I wish I could send peanuts down a phone line to feed him but instead I politely asked to speak to a supervisor.
After almost ten minutes on hold…Hello I’m Dominic how can I help you?
I explained the same issues as he had wrongly been told the tenant had called into a one-stop shop when she had sent this in the post – and as any Reclaimer knows put it in writing people!!!
The supervisor had not heard of the U1/2014 circular and had been given no instructions or training on this!
(My chair was decidely wobbly at this stage!)
He also said we have had nothing from the landlords on this!!
I pointed out to him the bedroom tax is just a part of a HB claim and has nothing to do with landlords as it is between the claimant (Karen) and the council who administer HB on behalf of the DWP.
One would have thought that a HB ‘supervisor’ would know what role he played in the job that he does, but clearly not the case!
So having explained his role he then asks has a letter been sent to Karen from her landlord asking if her landlord had ‘made’ her exempt!!
I restated again this is a matter between claimant and council!
(I’m not decrying landlords as many if not all of them are pulling out the stops to identify all tenants that are exempt as it is in their financial interests to do so)
He then asked me what I wanted him to do in this case and offered to expedite matters. I said yes of course but also stated i was surprised that LCC were not on the case and up to speed with this?
Why and what do you mean he asked?
(Chair extremely wobbly by now….)
I informed him that if Liverpool is the same as the other councils in Merseyside who have seen about 15% of bedroom tax tenants in this boat and this would mean about 1600 revisions for him in Liverpool.
I also mentioned that neighbouring Wirral council had already started paying back the wrongly deducted bedroom tax (and I know their IT records only go back to 1998 too – though I did not inform Chief Monkey the Supervisor of this!)
I also mentioned that the Mayor of Liverpool stated a few days ago that he pledged to support all of the victims of this pernicious bedroom tax and will do all he can in his power to get them reimbursed as quickly as possible with the money. Oh nearly forgot Joe the Mayor said he and his council had contacted all the housing associations over this!
So how strange that the HB officer and his supervisor know absolutely bugger all about this !!!
I then went on to mention that Karen (who was sitting open mouthed next to me) has had almost £20 per week deducted wrongly from her housing benefit and now some 42 weeks in this amounted to well over £800 she was due.
I then continued I know you have records as you have included her 1991 HB claim form in the bundle you sent to tribunal for her bedroom tax appeal
Ok I will expedite this he said after a pause.
Thank you and good luck with the other 1600 similar cases you are going to receive soon I responded!!
I can’t talk about other cases Sir he said
Bye say Joe!