Two of the 5 cases handed down in Kirkcaldy, Fife in August 2013 will be in front of the Upper Tribunal in September – 389 days after the First tier Tribunal decisions of Simon Collins QC turned the bedroom tax on its head.
Four cases won that day yet only 2 are being appealed by DWP, the cases of Davie Nelson and Unnamed and both these cases rely heavily if not exclusively on the 1985 Housing Act overcrowding legislation in England & Wales mirrored in the 1987 Housing (Scotland) Act.
I spoke with the tenants and the Fife Law Centre last week and have been invited to attend which I will do and I don’t intend to discuss these cases and their specific issues before that time for obvious reasons.
These two cases will make precedent on how the 1985 Housing Act applies to the bedroom tax regulations and will be of interest to many who (a) have already won on that ground, (b) those who have appealed using that ground and (c) those who have yet to appeal.
The ‘room size’ arguments have developed many different forms since last August such as HA 2004 and LACORS 2009 size arguments, planning consent and others; and there has also been a number of nuances and conflations such as room size and room usage, room size and historical use, room size, room usage and fit for purpose etc – the Tribunal judges have been careful to cover their decisions and not limit them just to the 1985 or 1987 Act and overcrowding.
I am reasonably certain that the Upper Tribunal can only decide on the facts as argued on these specific cases and not bring in other room size issues, though please advise me if this is not the case and that of course gives some strong pointers to those whose cases have yet to be heard or whose case is yet to be appealed – DONT simply rely on the 1985 Act if in England & Wales or the 1987 Act if in Scotland.
For those who have yet to appeal despite having 13 months from the 2014/15 succession decisions and those who have appealed and awaiting a hearing you really should be thinking of the end of August as a better date to appeal by and to submit further appeal grounds to the Tribunal if on room size – the date finally coming around for the UT hearings will focus the minds of tenants and will lead to a rush of appeals before this date.
That will please some such as colleagues in Wirral who have launched a 1000 appeals campaign for the 3500 or so bedroom tax cases there – colleagues who have been very successful at winning appeals too. A similar rush will occur in South Wales too where they are well on their way to over 350 or so appeals and I suspect that number will rise considerably given awareness of this date.
Bedroom tax surgeries run by the many grassroots groups will need help in all sorts of ways to cope with this, not just more volunteers and a hugely increased tea and coffee budget but for social landlords to either put up or shut up in terms of funding. In some areas of Merseyside the appeal dates for 2013/14 cases are only just starting to come through despite originally being handed in 12 months ago and if the tardy councils like Sefton think the worst of the paperwork and admin is over they can think again! There are also other areas like Telford & Wrekin which have only just seen tenants get their 2013/14 hearing dates too.
Canny (no pun intended) bedroom tax advisors will of course note that some aspects of the D Nelson and Unnamed cases were also evident in the other two successful Fife cases which the DWP has chosen NOT to appeal. That suggests loud and clear that the DWP must believe the 1985 / 1987 Housing Acts on overcrowding is their best chance of winning and having the FTT decisions overturned.
As well as informing of the date of the UT case this is also a shout out to the many legal and housing professionals who wish to see the bedroom tax become history and believe it is pernicious. Any comments and advice will be gratefully received and of course remain entirely 100% confidential when communicated to me and there is about a 90-day window for that to happen.
To fellow activists and campaigners we have shared so much freely and collectively and long may that continue. I need not restate my view that should the room size grounds be upheld in the UT then the bedroom tax is finished at least politically on day 525 of the bedroom tax – 525 days of back of a fag packet social policy experimentation on some of the very poorest and most vulnerable men, women and children of which Mengele would be proud.
90 days to get together and rub the noses of IDS and McVey into the same brown smelly stuff they have imposed on the sick and the disabled and the poor. Let’s not waste any of that time squabbling or prevarication or on any other agenda.
Landlords spent tens of thousands getting counsel opinions before the bedroom tax began and I have read and have copies of many of them. Should social landlords see fit to circulate them in confidence or have them revised and forward in confidence I would be grateful and of course all in 100% confidence as should the two Fife cases on room size be upheld then social landlords will benefit massively and not suffer any rent loss either.
One final thought dear reader – Should the UT uphold the FTT room size decisions you will be hearing a helluva lot less of my rants. Now c’mon. If you ever needed an incentive….!!