An Upper Tribunal decision dated yesterday 16 November 2015 is required reading as it stops the outrageous practice of FtT judges (especially common in the North East Tribunal Service) refusing to hear legitimate bedroom tax appeals.
First-tier Tribunal judges have issued Direction Notices like confetti on the same subject and saying that the bedroom tax decisions made in 2014 and 2015 were (a) NOT decisions merely ‘upratings’, and (b) as such they have no right of appeal.
Now the UT has said what the hell have you been doing!!
Just how many legitimate bedroom tax appeals have been prevented from being heard by the ludicrous ‘uprating not a decision’ stance is unclear yet what is clear is that these FtT judges got it hugely wrong in law.
These judges believed that when the rent changes as it does each year which prompts a new bedroom tax decision (bit of a clue there!!) that these decisions were just ‘amendments’ to the earlier and original 2013 bedroom tax decision and hence did not carry rights of appeal!
The decision itself contains the full detail yet one point that has just sprung to mind is that as social rents reduce next year by 1% one wonders whether these bumbling FtT judges would have ruled that the 2016 bedroom tax decisions were “downratings!”
The UT clarifies at the end of this that in essence whatever change affects the claimants pocket is a decision that carries full appeal rights and that is a lot easier than explaining what is the definition of decision or determination and uprating for housing benefit purposes…and even the concept of downrating too!
I would also draw attention to the following extract which can be decoded as legalese for ‘what the bloody hell did you think you were doing Judge!’ that comes on page 2 of this 7 page judgement:
The judge amended his reasons (!!) and added a further 10 paragraphs (!!)…In lay terms oh shit I f*cked up and been caught out so I will just make it up further as I go along!
The “I leave to one side….” bit I have highlighted I will let you decode reader else I will really go off on one here!
Yet the real issue here are (a) just how many legitimate bedroom tax appeals have been denied by this ‘uprating not decision‘ nonsense, and (b) all of these appeals that were denied a hearing now have to be given a tribunal hearing.
The link to the decision is here (pdf) and yet another major hat tip for Peter Barker is well deserved.
For the absolute avoidance of any doubt whatsoever I have not spoken with Peter over this and my comments above are all my own work and words not Peter’s.