Government to appeal against Fife ‘bedroom tax’ victories

Louise Mcleary in her bedroom, Redcraigs, Kirkcaldy
Louise Mcleary in her bedroom, Redcraigs, Kirkcaldy

The UK Government has declared that it will seek to appeal against the landmark rulings made in Fife against the “bedroom tax”.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will attempt to over turn the ruling of Simon Collins QC, made after the hearings at Pathhead Church, Kirkcaldy in August, which gave exemptions to certain council tenants who faced having their housing benefit cut.

Guidance issued to Fife Council states that if a room can accommodate at least a single bed, then it could be defined as a bedroom.

Louise McLeary, spokesperson for Fife Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign, said she was “shocked, but not surprised” at the DWP’s decision.

“I know the people that did win their appeal and for whom this is going to cause further hardship,” she said.

“Those that won can’t have their housing benefit reduction scrapped until this DWP appeal is heard which could take some time and will see them falling further and further into arrears.

“It seems to me that no-one is going to win in this case.”

A spokesman for the DWP said: “We have issued guidance to Local Authorities to clarify applying the size criteria and determining whether or not a property is under-occupied.

“Consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord, but not by measuring rooms.”

Fife Council leader Alex Rowley said that the Council had been told that the decision by Mr Collins should not be taken as a precedence.

He added: “I have written to finance minister John Swinney and every MSP calling on them to back the ‘No2bedroom Tax Campaign’ petition submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

“Ultimately this back and forth is very stressful for those who originally won their appeals and at Fife Council we said we would accept Mr Collins’ ruling.

“Given the amount of worry and levels of poverty people are finding themselves in because of cuts to their benefit, this needs to be addressed.”