30th October, 2013
Removal of the spare room subsidy –
First tier Tribunal decisions
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has written, just yesterday, by way of an HB circular, to councils throughout the UK, seeking to be kept updated on any appeals against the “spare room subsidy”, better known as “Bedroom Tax. The move is a predictable one following the recent series of successful appeals to First-tier tribunals.
DWP explains in the circular that it may opt to join an appeal or in some cases will take appeals forward where LAs have chosen not to do this. However, in order to do this DWP needs to be aware of the case, and as these decisions are returned only to LAs, DWP complains it is NOT being routinely made aware of these First tier Tribunal (FtT) decisions.
DWP states: “It needs to get a clearer picture of the number of FtT decisions where the removal of the spare room subsidy is the main issue. LAs are therefore asked to notify DWP of all FtT decisions relating to this subject, regardless of whether the decision is overturned or whether you intend to appeal adverse decisions” and sets out a number of prescribed actions to follow:
a) LA’s to provide a copy of the Tribunal’s decision;
b) Plus must make an early intimation of whether or not the Council intends appealing the decision.
c) Councils have been instructed to ask the Judge, in all adverse decisions, to supply “a full statement of reasons” to allow consideration of whether the DWP plans to make an appeal on a point of law or join the appeal of the council.
As I’ve explained in one of my earlier bulletins the DWP can’t afford to allow these successful appeals to stand without challenge. On the other hand, Councils, in some cases, are unlikely to make an appeal, such as in the case of Fife Council. You could equally have the highly unusual position of the council and DWP being at logger-heads as parties to the appeal, if, and when, the matter is considered by an Upper-tier Tribunal Judge.
More and more appeals are being made, and are producing effective results for tenants and RSLs alike. Some councils are using their DHP budgets to fully compensate the tenant for the HB sanction previously imposed, anticipating tenants will allow the appeal to lapse meantime, and then resurrect the appeal following the issue, in April 2014 of the 2014 HB award when the whole process can start again.
I have uploaded a copy of the circular to a related article in the “bulletins” section of the new website.