Campaigners against the Government’s bedroom tax have an anxious wait following a tribunal appeal hearing in Edinburgh.
Glenrothes man David Nelson, who won a landmark test case ruling against the spare room subsidy reforms last year, attended the Scottish Land Court on Thursday to defend the ruling contested by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
The DWP, represented by advocate Andrew Webster, presented their appeal against QC Simon Collins’ original tribunal ruling, contesting that a room should be considered a bedroom if it can accommodate a bed.
Early in the proceedings, Mr Nelson, represented by Graeme Sutherland from Fife Law Centre, had been refused an adjournment following the late submission of Fife Council documentation. The three judge panel, headed by Justice Charles, ruled that the detail did not alter the case to be heard.
Soon after, however, the DWP’s legal representatives were granted an hour-long recess following criticism from Justice Charles over their explanation of how the size of bedrooms living space was determined and applied to the individual facing the benefit legislation.
The DWP later argued that the calculation determining what could be considered a bedroom should be based on the size of the spare room added to living room space to give a overall calculation of possible space that could be considered as a bedroom,
Mr Webster said: “The calculation represented a bedroom of sorts, able to be used by the recipient.”
Following the completion of the four and a half hour hearing, Mr Nelson told the Gazette he remained optimistic that a favourable outcome could be achieved.
“Following today’s performance by the DWP and the comments and scrutiny made by the three sitting judges regarding their appeal, I remain very hopeful that we can win this, “ he said.
“Their case is riddled with inaccuracies and at times they presented information about my circumstance that were wholly untrue of which we made our feelings known to the judges.
“We have high hopes that we will get a result in our favour, we just now have a very anxious wait of anything from four to six weeks.”
Mr Nelson is hoping to make history for a second time with the outcome of this tribunal, while local authorities across the UK will keep a watchful eye on a result that could spell chaos for the Government’s benefit reforms.
Around 75,000 Scottish households are currently affected by the legislation which has seen those with a spare bedroom receiving a 14 per cent benefit cut, while those with two or more rooms face a 25 per cent reduction in benefit.
A second victory could spell chaos for ‘bedtax’
Last year’s landmark ruling by QC Simon Collins confirmed that a room measuring less than 50 square feet could not be considered by law as a bedroom.
Furthermore a room measuring between 50 to 70 square feet could only be used by a child under 10 years of age.
The Government’s spare rooms subsidy, commonly referred to as the ‘bedroom tax’, currently affects around 75,000 households in Scotland.
Following Mr Nelson’s original test case ruling, Fife Council confirmed that it would not contest the decision and was considering exempting the estimated 2000 households in Fife also affected.