October 2013 The Bedroom Tax Hokey Cokey

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Permission has been granted for an appeal against the High Court's dismissal of a challenge to the bedroom tax.

In R (on the application of MA & Ors) V the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Birmingham City Council a group of ten claimants had sought a judicial review of the provisions introducing the bedroom tax. In its July 2013 judgment, the High Court held that, although the bedroom tax was discriminatory, the discrimination against adults with disabilities was justified, and thus lawful (see our previous news story August 2013).
However, in giving his reasons for granting the appeal to the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Aikens said that the cases –
'… raise issues of public importance concerning the amended housing benefit scheme and the needs of disabled / young people and so should be considered by the Court of Appeal.... Further, the points raised in the grounds of appeal and the proposed ‘skeleton’ argument have a reasonable prospect of success…'
However, in another twist to the saga, the DWP is to appeal against two bedroom tax tribunal decisions which found that spare rooms were too small to count as bedrooms. In these cases a tribunal in Scotland found that rooms designated by the landlord as bedrooms were not capable of being such for the purposes of the bedroom tax because the judge determined that the rooms did not satisfy the 'space standard' as set out in section 326 of the Housing Act 1985 and section 137 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 which is used to assess statutory overcrowding.
In Urgent Bulletin HB U6/2013, the DWP that it will seek permission to appeal against the decisions in these cases, as space standards do not relate to the bedroom tax, and that -
'This bulletin is to inform local authorities that when applying the size criteria and determining whether or not a property is under-occupied, the only consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord, but not by measuring rooms’.
We will update this news item as soon as any decision is made.

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