Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#Shameful: A High Court Judge accepts the #BedroomTax discriminates against disabled people but does so legally.

Today, the High Court has handed down its verdict on the legality of the #BedroomTax. Justice Laws rejected disabled victims pleas that the BedroomTax broke the 2010 Equality Act. The Court accepted that BedroomTax regulations are discriminatory, but decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful. But the judge did slam the current arrangements and Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs “cannot be allowed to continue”.  The BBC fails utterly to report either of those two points (here). The lawyer representing Leigh Day, Richard Stein, stated (here) that tenants were bitterly disappointed but not defeated.

This is shameful indictment on the UK judicial system for failing to uphold an important piece of equality legislation. Leigh Day law firm have stated that they will be lodging a formal appeal to the Court of Appeal (here). Ten disabled victims of the tax took their case to the high court arguing that their disability meant that they needed extra space in their home, not less as the punitive legislation demanded. The claimants argued that under the terms of the 2010 Equality Act, Iain Duncan-Smith was failing to take account of their special needs as disabled persons. The fact that the government's own impact assessment showed that 63% of BedroomTax victims were disabled means that any decision in favour of disabled victims would make the act virtually unworkable. 

Leaving the judgement aside for one moment, there are plenty of other reasons why the BedroomTax should be scrapped.  The Bedroom Tax doesn't just discriminate, it is also financially unworkable. The Bedroom Tax is supposed to save the taxpayer £480 million a year by asking 660,000 tenants who are in 80% of cases either single parents or disabled to pay between £14-28 a week as a penalty for under-occupying their home. But the average 132% increase in arrears since April 1 has meant that at least £217 million of those savings are in jeopardy (evidence here). Also, it costs between £11,000-16,000 to carry out eviction proceedings against a tenant so taking action against even just 5% of those persons in arrears would mean that the Bedroom Tax cost the taxpayer more than it saves. On top of this, extra funds are now being spent housing people in temporary accommodation including hotels and bedsits, all of this at extra expense to the taxpayer. Discretionary Housing Payment applications have also tripled since the Bedroom Tax was introduced as tenants in crisis have nowhere else to turn. Not only does this legislation discriminate, it is also financially unsound.

Of course the third point about the #BedroomTax is that the majority of voters want the Bedroom Tax halted. Not even a majority of Tory voters support the legislation. See the full polling data (here). It even rivals the Poll Tax for its lack of popularity with Thatcher's poll tax attracting just a little less support.


An ICM poll in May 1990 showed that 22% of voters backed the Poll Tax (here).

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