UK GOVERNMENT RELEASED THE LEGAL COSTS OF DEFENDING
I’m Papa, social entrepreneur, activist and CSR specialist dedicated to end homelessness in the UK.
On the 7th of December 2017, the Department for Work & Pensions responded to a Freedom of Information Request for the total legal fees spent defending the Spare Bedroom Tax.
The UK Government released the official amount spent defending the ‘spare-bedroom tax’ in the Supreme Courts, after a Freedom of Information request was submitted. The ‘spare-bedroom tax’, more accurately described as the removal of the spare bedroom subsidy, was introduced as a government solution to cause vacancies in social housing, and accelerate what was then a 1.7million¹ person waiting list. Individuals already on benefits presented with this additional cost were expected to relocate, but with smaller social housing already occupied (hence the waiting list) and private rental sector to expensive, 95% have had to stay an incur the extra cost, hence it being labeled a new tax on the poor.
Papakow Baiden, an activist in the field of UK homelessness, filed a Freedom of Information request² to learn the cost to the taxpayer of the legal fees defending the spare-bedroom tax after the High Court, Court of Appeal upheld that this charge being introduced by law was oppressive, and mentioned it could well be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Rather than a redraft, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) appealed to the Supreme Court in November 2016.
The DWP confirms it spent £355,710 on the legal proceedings in the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court, but this cost does not include the cost of government advisory lawyers who worked on the case because “time spent by such advisory lawyers is not recorded in a manner that allows it to be attributed to individual cases”. The DWP won 5 of the 7 appeal cases, and the spare-bedroom tax remained in-tact with the new amendment of now not charging spare bedrooms in the case of disabled couples unable to share rooms due to the disability, and the case of overnight carers for disabled child (or non-dependent).
Papakow Baiden, formerly a CSR Project Manager for Nando’s UK and now Founder of TomorrowToday, newborn social enterprise aimed at ending homelessness in the UK, covered the implications of the spare-bedroom tax in his book³ covering homelessness in the UK released earlier this year. “In Our Hands” is an overview to the causes and state of homelessness in the UK, challenges the stereotypes of homeless people, and offers suggestions of how readers can help. The book is drawn from big data and reports, but also personal stories from homeless people and other activists. The inspiration for the book came from visiting The Upper Room, a soup kitchen in Shepherd’s Bush, where Papakow learned of the burden faced by many homeless people in this country, the work being done to support them, and how much more help was needed.
It seems rather significant that in 2013- before Brexit, but after the credit crunch – the government were warned of the oppressive nature of the new spare-bedroom tax law by other international forces; the United Nations. Raquel Rolnik was commissioned to investigate the UK on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living4. The rather thorough December 2013 report states among the conclusions that “the spare bedroom tax should be suspended immediately, and re-evaluated in light of the evidence of its negative impact on the right to adequate housing.” The government rather defended the law, at the taxpayers’ expense, and with no reduction in the housing waiting list to show for it. Rolnik also reported of the cuts to legal aid available to homeless people by law. Also in December in 2013 was the DWP rejection of £22 million funding to UK soup kitchens5, which faced large criticism from the charity sector.
Along with other economic forces, the desire to have less international pressure enacting the austerity measures and £19 billion public spending cuts6 form the 2015 Conservative manifesto could have added impetus to the desire to leave the EU.
Papakow Baiden e: firstname.lastname@example.org | m: +44 7908 413774 | www.papabaiden.com
6. “The UK Coalition Government welfare reforms are estimated this year to have extracted £19 billion pounds from the pockets of low income households across Great Britain.” – Crisis, August 2015, ‘Homelessness Monitor: Wales 2015’
Image Credits: Welfare Weekly