Bedroom Tax & (Chicken) Supreme Court?

Today’s Supreme Court rulings may benefit between 3% and 5% of the current 430,000 or so bedroom tax affected households.

That would be my best guess and equates to around 13,000 to 20,000, yet still leaves the vast majority and over 95% deriving no benefit.


I have read a dozen or so articles from the usual suspects in the national press and other reports ranging from the excellent CPAG news release (that I would urge everyone reads to the ridiculous and error strewn article in the Mirror that I would urge nobody does.  The Mirror still say 600,000 are affected by the bedroom tax yet the highest it has ever been was 524,000 and the article is the epitome of a little knowledge is a dangerous things and riddled with invective that heaps praise … upon itself!

Had the media onto me all day and a radio interviewer asking does this open the ‘floodgates’ typifies the mainstream media agenda – sensationalist bullshit in other words when the bedroom tax is a pernicious policy that affects the daily lives of a million men women and children who often don’t know where the next meal is coming from!

Legal not moral

“Courts administer the law rather than deliver justice” is a phrase I use to explain when the law triumphs over morality or any other perceived just dimension of a legal case.

The Supreme Court handed down seven bedroom tax verdicts today and five lost and two won.  Legally I believe they got it right in all seven cases; whereas morally they got it wrong in the five cases they dismissed.

The bedroom tax is a hugely emotive issue; at times an unbearably stressful issue for those it affects which is everyone in the household including children; and is hugely controversial in political terms.

What the Supreme Court dismissed

I have previously stated that challenges to the pernicious policy have focused too much on the morality and been ‘overtaken by the disability lobbies’ so that the major if not only focus of the policy has been its offensive treatment and impact on disabled households.

I am full of praise for the many disability lobbies and undoubtedly it was their ability to get the horrors of what the policy meant on national TV screens and specifically of the Carmichael and Rutherford cases that changed public opinion so dramatically.

I am still smiling whenever I type the words ‘Carmichael’ and ‘Rutherford’ and so full of huge admiration for that they have done and always will be.  Their efforts have been heroic and as I opened with it is their particular legal aspects that will see 13,000 to 20,000 households or between 31,000 and 48,000 men women and children benefit nationally.

YET the Supreme Court was very dismissive about the more ‘generic’ disability cases as the following from the excellent CPAG news releases says:


It may be lawful but its not fair and thousands of disabled people are left without … or in short the generic disability discrimination arguments have lost and are gone for good.  Challenging the bedroom tax imposition now on general and non-specific disability discrimination is over and done with, and while invective and rhetoric will abound in the likes of the Mirror still – they do still have to sell newsprint after all – such arguments in a legal sense are as dead as a Dodo.

The size and dimension arguments in the bedroom tax are still as they have always been the most likely source of challenging the bedroom tax decision and will take out far more households from the pernicious policy and I still strongly maintain some 10% – 15% of rooms are not Nelson-compliant bedrooms and this is between 40,000 and 60,000 rooms that have the bedroom tax wrongly imposed.

However, the bedroom tax will shortly disappear off the radar as the much higher average housing benefit cuts in the benefit cap gives the media and its journalists more scope to sell newsprint than the bedroom tax they have always used on the morality grounds to sell their products off the backs of even more vulnerable households in the policy that deliberately targets children and not adults like the bedroom tax. Cynical? Perhaps yet one hundred per cent valid.

I for one will do all I can to ensure the bedroom tax challenges go on and specifically the bedroom tax appeals via the tribunal route that I argue above just on ‘size’ grounds alone will take up to 60,000 households out of this despised ideologically driven pernicious policy.  More so in fact as those bedroom tax households who have been reliant on a Discretionary Housing Payment will see the bedroom tax DHP all but disappear due to the benefit cap higher priority DHP for local councils.

Discretionary Housing Payments – is why I title this piece the ‘chicken’ Supreme Court as that is precisely what it did, chicken out in this area.

Their legal reasoning at its simplest form – and they took an incredibly simplistic and unrealistic view of this – is that the provision of Discretionary Housing Payments legally justified the bedroom tax cases, including the disability discrimination and all other aspects.  Yet this is far too simplistic.

To explain the Supreme Court found that just the provision of DHP payments made the policy lawful yet it took no real consideration of those payments.  It effectively ruled that central government could imposed a policy to remove £100 billion in housing benefit payments and give all local councils thruppence to deal with the problem was lawful.

I exaggerate the numbers yet that is the essence of what the Supreme Court ruled.

The level of DHP allocations from central to local government I would argue is just as “manifestly without reason” they used to describe the perversities of the Carmichael and Rutherford decisions.

DHPs have often been termed a sticking plaster on an open wound and that is what they are and they will get much more ineffective and irrational with the overall benefit cap reductions yet it appears that no consideration of the effectiveness, viability or purposefulness of the amount of DHP payments was given by the Supreme Court.  They bottled it and chickened out in simple terms and the following example of Liverpool reveals and illustrates for other areas.

Liverpool City Council and DHP

  • LCC has a £2 million per year allocation.  This currently mitigates a £6.7 million per year HB cut in bedroom tax and a £0.3 million per year HB cut in benefit cap.
  • In short £2 million for LCC to deal with a £7 million problem 
  • LCC will still have the same £2 million per year DHP pot and will still have the £6.7 million HB cut in bedroom tax.  YET the amount of HB cut in the reduced benefit cap will be around £7.4 million per year.
  • In short £2 million for LCC to deal with a £14 million problem!

Those numbers clearly play a hugely significant part into any enquiry as to whether the provision of DHP monies justify the accepted discrimination, yet the Supreme Court wholly failed to consider this.

This is so much more than the usual acceptance of the judiciary not to interfere with executive decisions taken by government.  It is a hugely pertinent and relevant legal factor as to whether the amount of DHP provision justifies – which they do not.

In the next few days and weeks I will elaborate on why I maintain the Rutherford and Carmichael decisions will see families taken out of the bedroom tax and these decisions are very much welcomed.

Finally, do read the CPAG new release which covers the main legal issues very clearly … though Sophie Earnshaw of CPAG calling the Rutherfords ‘ordinary‘ grandparents when they are clearly extraordinary and hugely courageous and resolute and yes heroic … as are the Carmichaels and indeed are all the other families too.

They all deserve huge praise and respect and just think that you all still have the support and admiration of 1 million or so men, women and children in 430,000 families right across the UK and you always will be winners


22 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax & (Chicken) Supreme Court?

  1. My partner has a lot of health problems, he suffers with sleep apnea and has to use a CPAP, he has restless leg syndrome and it looks like he also suffers with fibromyalgia, he has 2 implants in his back and also he has an icd. We have a spare room which he sleep in as he has to use his cpap at night and anyone who lives with a person who suffers with restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia know what it is like to sleep in the same bed. We are so grateful that we have a second bedroom otherwise we would both have sleep deprivation and that would not be good. But even though he has to sleep in the spare room due to his disabilities we still have to pay the bedroom tax. If i was not down as his full time carer and had a carer sleep over night a couple of times a week we would be exempt but then that would mean that he would not be able to use the second bedroom, it is just totally disgusting.

  2. I read your piece and with one exception I agree completely with what you say. I too thought that the supreme Court chickened out because the whole point about DHP’s are that they are discretionary I think they erred in Law not looking at this particular element but so not surprised.

    The point I didn’t agree with is ‘overtaken by the disability lobbies’ really you think that’s appropriate statement seriously?

    1. I have made that same statement for 3 years and disability lobbies have taken it in the way it was meant and accepted it has validity.
      I also have rightly stated that the same disability lobbies have done a fabulous job so the two are not binary

    1. The Carmichael case STRESSED the need for a couple needing to sleep in separate rooms for MEDICAL reasons. It is not a general exception but a very specific one that is FULLY SUPPORTED by medical evidence

      1. Hi Joe
        I just realised. What information do I have to quote for the Carmichael case as it is simliar to my situation. E.g. case number etc, I don’t know. Thanks in advance.

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