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