ImageThe bedroom tax is dead in the water following a judgment by an Upper Benefit Tribunal in Bolton on 10th January 2014.

Upper Tribunals set precedents which must be followed by First Tier Benefit Tribunals and, in this case, by local authorities making housing benefit decisions, including all local councils in Merseyside.

The Bolton Upper Tribunal has decided that a bedroom is ‘a room furnished with a bed or used for sleeping in’. This means that a room – which is neither furnished with a bed nor used for sleeping in – is not a bedroom. Across Merseyside thousands of tenants are paying the bedroom tax on rooms which are not bedrooms, but which local authorities have decided are bedrooms based on submissions from housing associations. Such rooms – many of them box rooms – are used for other purposes – as studies, computer rooms, storage rooms, or just lie empty.

The judgment confirms Merseyside Federation’s long-held contention that every bedroom tax decision made in 2013 was fundamentally flawed. Local authorities did not define what a bedroom was, did not see such a definition as necessary, and did not inspect each property to ascertain the true facts of tenants’ individual situation.

The Bolton judgement changes this. Merseyside Federation urges all tenants paying the bedroom tax to immediately appeal, citing the Bolton judgment for the financial year 2013/14. We also urge housing associations to support and promote such appeals since it is in their interest to see as many successful appeals as possible.

To conform to the Bolton judgment, Juliet Edgar (Secretary of the Federation) says:

“Local authorities must inspect every single property they think may be liable for the bedroom tax for 2014/15 to determine for themselves the number of rooms in use as bedrooms. They cannot lawfully rely on housing associations sending information derived from tenancy agreements. This will be impossible: decisions have to be made by the end of March 2014. Such inspections will take hundreds of staff weeks to complete – there is no capacity. The bedroom tax has become inoperable, the bedroom tax is dead”.

Merseyside Federation urges local authorities across Merseyside to make this clear to the government. Merseyside Federation also wishes to support housing association who are encouraging their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax decision, they have access to their tenants and should support tenants to do so. The Merseyside Federation will also assist tenants to appeal.

For further information please contact – Juliet Edgar (Secretary) Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups on 07528194137 or Robert Claridge (Wirral) on 07956458331 or email –

1392978_10151720086661295_1103261804_nDeciding bedroom tax liability: a last chance for action

South Wirral Campaign against the Bedroom Tax has kept all Labour councillors informed about the fight against the bedroom tax. We have copied you in to an open letter to Councillor Phil Davies and Chief Executive Graham Burgess. We assume that you have seen their utterly inadequate reply, and we have copied you into our response.

Via Councillor George Davies, Wirral anti-bedroom tax campaigns passed on a model motion on 8 July for the Labour group to adopt which would alleviate the bedroom tax burden for hundreds of tenants on the Wirral. The Labour group rejected it, without explanation. We re-issued it again with our open letter to Messrs Davies and Burgess. We raised it again at a public meeting in Bromborough on 16 September attended by four of your number and Alison McGovern. Again, no response.

Both Messrs Davies and Burgess have said the Council can do nothing. This is an untruth. They have failed to answer the question, how can the Council decide if a tenant has too many bedrooms if it refuses to define what a bedroom is? Yet Croydon Council is quite clear: a room cannot be a bedroom of it is less than 70sq ft. Wirral Council says the space standards of the 1985 Housing Act are not relevant to bedroom tax decisions. Croydon and 20 other councils say that they are. There are hundreds of social housing properties in Wirral where tenants are paying bedroom tax on box-rooms of less than 50sq ft.

Your declarations of opposition to the bedroom tax mean nothing unless you take action which is within your powers. You have a responsibility to support tenants in your wards and challenge the view that pre-existing housing legislation is irrelevant, that there is no need for a written Council policy, Council procedure or Council definition of a bedroom. An argument that the Council has no discretion because of the absence of a legal definition of ‘bedroom’ is bogus.  ‘Sheltered housing’ has no legal definition either and the Council has been making decisions on what sheltered is and is not consistently for decades. Your inaction is now forcing tenants to appeal, a process that takes six months, during which they continue to shoulder the appalling burden of the tax.

This is no longer acceptable. If at the next meeting of the Council on 14 October there is no discussion of the model motion which has been in your hands for weeks, then tenants will be forced to do what you have not done. In line with policy agreed by Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups, South Wirral Campaign against the Bedroom Tax tenants will start to determine our own bedroom tax liability on the basis of Croydon Council policy, emerging Benefit Tribunal judgments, and consistent with A4/2013 Section 20. This will not be a step we take lightly, but please be absolutely clear: we will regard it as your responsibility that we have been left with no other choice.

Robert Claridge for South Wirral Campaign against the Bedroom Tax

ImageMerseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups is looking for a group of tenants to publicly declare their non-payment. This is part of a new strategy of pressuring local councils to put their money where their mouth is, and take action on tribunal rulings which should end the coalition’s hated and destructive policy.

The Conservative/Lib Dem government is very much on the back foot over the bedroom tax. The report by Raquel Rolnik of the United Nations was a devastating condemnation of the suffering the measure has imposed on already vulnerable people. Also, tribunal after tribunal has found in favour of tenants, and against councils, over the implementation of the bedroom tax.

The government has declared it will appeal against the judgement in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, which found that Fife Council – and therefore all councils – had acted contrary to the law when they simply took the social landlord’s word over the number of bedrooms in each property. The tribunal found that each council must take into account room size, available floor space, purpose, and usage of each room. It definitively ruled that rooms of under seventy square feet cannot be classed as a bedroom.

When Ed Miliband announced Labour’s pledge to axe the bedroom tax if they come to power in 2015 (years too late for tenants struggling right now), Merseyside’s council leaders chimed in, all saying that they oppose the bedroom tax on a personal level, but can do nothing to challenge national government policy. This is a lie.

All the region’s Labour councils have to do is comply with the law, as interpreted by the Kirkcaldy tribunal! Fife council have already agreed to do this, so if Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton councils all went along, the bedroom tax would be dealt a fatal blow, and the government would have to stop dragging its feet.

To make local council chiefs think again, Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups propose a high profile campaign. Volunteer tenants:

  • must be prepared to take a public stand
  • would have to have handed in an appeal to help preserve their position (we can help with this)
  • would make two public statements – one to the housing association and one to the council, saying why they have been forced into this position

Tenants interested in being one of our non-payment volunteers should contact our secretary Juliet Edgar on 07528194137 or

First time a court has ruled that bedroom tax breaches an individual’s human rights. KEEP APPEALING!

The following is a repost from the Infantile Disorder blog:

Over the last few weeks, the tide has been turning against the government over their imposition of the bedroom tax. The human rights report by Raquel Rolnik of the United Nations laid bare both the suffering of affected tenants and the fact that the coalition government holds them in utter contempt. And at this week’s Labour Party conference, Ed Miliband made a commitment to abolishing the bedroom tax should he come to power following the next general election.

Labour councils across the country – and particularly on Merseyside – issued statements of support for this decision. Liverpool’s Labour mayor Joe Anderson has used his Twitter account to voice his own personal opposition to the bedroom tax on a few occasions. This week was no different, as he tweeted “Thank you to all of the people who campaigned to persuade Labour to pledge to repeal Bedroom Tax, you deserve great credit.” But there was no response when the Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups – whose members have been instrumental in organising on the issue locally – tweeted him “That’s fine, but will Liv council reassess every affected tenant as per the recent Fife rulings?”

Labour councils in Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton have also refused to do anything to alleviate the agony of affected tenants, despite the Fife QC’s statement that it is incumbent on them to reassess ALL bedrooms on the grounds that:

“It’s up to the local authority to make its own decision that the landlord has accurately described the property. Because this is an appeal, it is now for me to decide what a bedroom is. In this case, the council has made a decision based on the landlord’s description but hasn’t even gone round to inspect the room.”

Furthermore, there have now been two rulings (1, 2) that rooms under seventy square feet cannot be counted as bedrooms, and usage must be taken into account. Still, Labour councils are refusing to step up to their responsibility. Just this week, Wirral council chief executive Graham Burgess deceptively and falsely replied to the South Wirral campaign that: “This [Fife] is a one off special case – it is unlikely that Wirral will be affected by it.” With the Department for Work and Pensions seeking leave to appeal, this position is unlikely to change any time soon.

If tenants can be found who are being charged bedroom tax for rooms of under seventy square feet, and if they have no existing arrears, a non-payment campaign could be an excellent way of forcing the issue. Of course, it would be up to the tenants concerned, and they would need support and solidarity from their local groups within the larger Federation. Still, combined with media attention-grabbing demonstrations, it could be a great tactic for embarrassing the local Labour politicians, and especially those who have made a show of opposing the bedroom tax.

The tide of legal rulings is turning in our favour! APPEAL APPEAL APPEAL!

ImageThe following is a repost from the Infantile Disorder blog.

This morning, a small but determined group of twenty demonstrators marched in South Wirral, demanding that the bedroom tax be finally ditched by the vicious and incompetent Tory/Lib Dem coalition which introduced it.

The demonstration walked the two miles from Bromborough Rake train station to Eastham One Stop Shop, where appeal letters were handed in. In comparison to the demonstration called by a single Rock Ferry estate in July, there were relatively fewer participants from the local community, as distinct from those activists showing their solidarity. However, the event was almost certainly the first protest ever to take place in Bromborough, and the noisy chants will have raised much awareness of the local group.

The route showed something of the class divides which can exist even within the same town, with some parts more mansion tax than bedroom tax. There were whispers of “how the other half live”, as we passed immaculately kept massive lawns and multiple expensive cars parked on driveways. It was noted that the general public in these areas barely looked at the march. Then down the road we passed through an impoverished area with shuttered shops and (very artistic) graffiti everywhere. Here drivers waved their support, and two teenage boys whose teachers were “on strike” ran alongside and shouted for their friends to join in.

The Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups is recommending that all affected tenants appeal, or re-appeal based on the Fife tribunal rulings. Fife council has now accepted that it went beyond its powers when it accepted the word of housing associations on how many bedrooms are in each property for bedroom tax purposes, without carrying out their own assessment based on ‘bedroom’ size, useable size, and room useage. Wirral council has so far given no reply to the South Wirral campaign’s open letter, demanding that they do the same.

The Fife judgement means ALL bedroom tax deductions are appealable! Here’s how to do it…

07/03/13 man in a small room - lullington, swadMerseyside Federation of anti-Bedroom Tax Groups Press release 19 September 2013

Following a first-tier benefit tribunal judgement* against Fife Council that a room of less than 70 sq ft is not a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes, an emergency meeting agreed today that this will now become official council policy. Earlier in the week the council announced that it would not appeal against the tribunal ruling. In separate judgements over the last two weeks, the benefit tribunal in Kirkcaldy has ruled that room purpose, usage and usable space are also issues that councils need to take into account in determining a tenant’s liability for the bedroom tax.

Secretary of Merseyside Federation of anti-Bedroom Tax Groups Juliet Edgar says: “This is is an important and very welcome decision. We have always said the process that councils went through in determining bedroom tax liability was fundamentally flawed since they did not take into account the space standards of the 1985 Housing Act or individual circumstances. Fife Council has set a precedent: we now insist that councils on Merseyside follow immediately.”

There are thousands of properties on Merseyside where tenants are paying bedroom tax for room less than 70 sq ft. The 1985 Housing Act space standard says that this is too small to serve as a bedroom for an adult. Councils and housing associations will now have to face up to the prospect of undertaking individual surveys of tens of thousands of social housing properties across Merseyside to record individual room sizes, their purpose and the use that is made of them. It is expected that at least 30% of all bedroom tax decisions will have to be set aside as a result.

Ms Edgar comments: “This is is an exercise that will take months. In the meantime, we demand that all existing bedroom tax decisions are set aside. Why should tenants continue to pay a tax for which they are not liable while councils do the job that they should have done at the outset?”

For further information contact Juliet Edgar on 07528194137

* Judgements SC108/13/01362 and SC108/13/01318. For a more detailed assessment of both judgements and their significance see

ImageNew Kirkcaldy judgement torpedoes bedroom tax – again!

In a further and in some ways even more significant judgement (SC108/13/01362)*, the Kirkcaldy Benefit Tribunal has ruled that any room of less than 70 sq ft cannot be a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes. The judge has used the A4/2012 regulations to arrive at this conclusion, in Paragraph 63 and Annex C where the Secretary of State suggests that claimants with additional rooms should consider taking in a lodger. 

The judge has explicitly decided that under-occupancy can be seen as the flip side of overcrowding, and that statutory space standards set out for England in the 1985 Housing Act are relevant for bedroom tax decisions. These state that rooms of 50 to 70 sq ft are appropriate for use as sleeping accommodation by a young child (up to the age of 10) but not an adult.The judge also accepted that having regard to Circular A4/2012, that paragraph B13(5) generally presupposes that to be classified as a bedroom a room should be large enough to be appropriate for use as a bedroom by an adult (a possible lodger) – or by two children.

Wirral Council has stated that the 1985 Housing Act Section 326 space standards are irrelevant for bedroom tax purposes – the council is wrong, and our campaign has always said so. The judgment means that every Wirral tenant with any room less than 70 sq ft for which they are paying bedroom tax MUST APPEAL, since they stand a great chance of winning.

In the light of these Kirkcaldy judgments, we demand that Wirral council’s executive team, and Wirral councillors now accept that the process they went through to determine bedroom tax liability was fundamentally flawed, and immediately set to work with tenants and housing associations to review every bedroom tax decision they have made.

South Wirral Campaign against the Bedroom Tax 13 September 2013

For further information contact Robert Claridge 07956 458 331

*See earlier judgement SC108/1301318. For a more detailed assessment of both judgements and their significance see