Kirkcaldy bedroom tax tribunal first of its kind

Louise McLeary from Kirkcaldy who appealed against a cut to her housing benefit at a tribunal, the first of its kind in Scotland.
Louise McLeary from Kirkcaldy who appealed against a cut to her housing benefit at a tribunal, the first of its kind in Scotland.
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A blind Kirkcaldy woman was one of the first in Scotland to appeal against the controversial bedroom tax in a tribunal held on Monday.

Louise McLeary, spokesman for the Fife Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign, had her housing benefit cut by Fife Council following the introduction of new legislation by the UK Government.

Under the new law, social tenants with an extra room which they are ruled not to need will have their benefit cut by 14 per cent - and those with two or more will face a cut of 25 per cent.

Miss McLeary’s case against Fife Council was one of eight before an appeal hearing at Pathhead Parish Church, Kirkcaldy by independent tribunal chairman Simon Collins QC.

She argued that the second bedroom in her flat which is rented from Kingdom Housing Association (KHA) is used for braille and computer equipment and is where her guide dog sleeps.

Fife Council’s case was put forward by Les Robertson of the finance and procurement service, whilst Fife Law Centre’s principal solicitor Graham Sutherland represented Miss McLeary.

In an ironic twist, Miss McLeary’s appeal was partly paid by the Council as the Law Centre had appealed for funding from its welfare reform budget.

Mr Robertson said that Miss McLeary’s property was not exempt as it had been confirmed by KHA that it had two-bedrooms, but he argued that her room was needed for “exceptional use”.

Summing up, Mr Collins admitted the regulations were “harsh” but it was his job to decide whether it was a bedroom or not.

Miss McLeary vowed to fight on should her appeal fail.