Scots council seals off rooms to beat bedroom tax

A SCOTTISH council is to start sealing off rooms in a bid to beat the so-called bedroom tax.

High profile figures like Tommy Sheridan were among the thousands who  protested against The Bedroom Tax last year. Picture: TSPL
High profile figures like Tommy Sheridan were among the thousands who protested against The Bedroom Tax last year. Picture: TSPL

Angus Council said they would be taking the drastic step because of the “huge effect” that “the tax on the poor” is having on hard-up tenants.

Leader Iain Gaul said today that the SNP-controlled authority would be sealing off the windows and doors of one bedroom in two-bedroom properties to alleviate problems caused by the policy.

He claimed the consequences of not taking such actions were “horrendous” because there are simply not enough one-bedroom flats to meet demand.

Mr Gaul said: “People are finding themselves having to live alone for a variety of circumstances.

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‘We don’t have the money to build one-bedroom houses’

“We don’t have the money to build one-bedroom houses and unfortunately we also have a shortage of these properties.

“We have plans in the background to seal off rooms to alleviate the problems that this so-called bedroom tax is causing.

“We would be sealing off the windows and doors to the spare room so there is no access.

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“If people do not have enough money to live on -- what are they going to do?”

Angus Council’s move comes at the same time as a bid by the Department for Work and Pensions to overturn a ruling that size does matter when it comes to defining a bedroom.

If it fails, it will set a precedent that could spell the end of the so-called bedroom tax.

Groundbreaking test case

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Fife man David Nelson won a groundbreaking test case in Kirkcaldy a year ago when top QC Simon Collins ruled that size and usage should be taken into account when deciding what constitutes as a bedroom.

The DWP will appeal that decision on September 18 at a hearing in Edinburgh.

It will be the first appeal by the government on the grounds of room size and this time the decision carries more weight.

Mr Nelson is hoping to make history for a second time by persuading the judge to dismiss the DWP’s appeal and uphold the original decision.

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Campaigners against the “bedroom tax” are expected to attend the hearing from across Scotland and local authorities and housing associations await the result with interest.

This appeal comes after MPs voted for exemptions for disabled people from the policy entirely, and ruling that social housing tenants should be given a reprieve until they receive a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation.

Around 75,000 households in Scotland are affected by the policy that resulted in people with one spare bedroom having their housing benefit cut by 14% and those with two or more spare rooms facing a 25% cut in benefit.

Mr Collins ruled last year that a room measuring less than 50 square feet is not a bedroom and a room measuring between 50 and 70 feet could only be used by a child under 10.

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If a room can accommodate a bed then it is a bedroom

The DWP maintains that if a room can accommodate a bed then it is a bedroom.

Mr Nelson’s solicitor, Graeme Sutherland from Fife Law Centre, said that the decision of the second tribunal would be significant.

He said today: “This is the first upper tier tribunal on these grounds in the UK and it has huge implications for the whole country.

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“The DWP are appealing against the first tier tribunal and have decided to take it higher for judicial authority on the matter.

“There are many cases across the UK which have followed the Fife decision on room size.

“All of these cases would fall either to be underscored or appealed on the grounds of David’s appeal on the 18th.

“To be honest, if they say there is no minimum size I think it would throw many local authorities into even worse chaos than they’re in at the moment.”

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The DWP would have the right to appeal to a higher court should the decision go against them but Mr Sutherland said that would not be easy.

He said: “You are speaking about fairly significant expense to take it further.

“If the appeal is unsuccessful on the issue of room size I would hope the DWP would leave it at that.

European Court of Human Rights

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“I think the original decision was sensible and Mr Collins justified his position well so I wouldn’t think it would be considered an error of judgement.”

Mr Nelson, who has vowed to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if neccessary, said he was looking forward to the next stage of his fight.

He said: “I’m quite happy to go to appeal.

“This could set a precedent for the whole of the UK.”

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The DWP declined to comment until the outcome of the case.

Angus Council neighbourhood services convener Donald Morrison said he was “eagerly awaiting” the verdict of the DWP appeal.

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