Today the administrative court did not conclude that the government's policy on disabled people and the spare room subsidy was unlawful. However, the details are important. There are people who as a result of disability do need a spare bedroom. There is no question about this. The government's plan was for these people to be funded through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP). The court accepted that the government were producing detailed guidelines to ensure that such people go get DHP.
I had a case like this in my constituency. Initially the council refused DHP, but I complained about this and they granted DHP.
A big question in terms of the implementation of this policy is the amount of DHP that is available. As at the first quarter in Birmingham Quarter 1 a total of £1,007,256.94 had been spent or committed. £763,395.70 was spent in the first quarter, £207,282.05 was committed for Q2, £34,140.57 for Q3 and £2,438.62 for Q4.
The budget is £3.7m, but in fact if you take the funds spent in Q1 and multiply that by 4 you get 3,053,582.8 still leaving over half a million. On the other hand if you take the total spent and committed and multiply that by 4 you get an over spend.
The council is obviously being careful with this, but given that central government have announced an additional £35m then there the budget is not going that badly.
The figures for solihull are more flexible.
Total budget £294,866.00
Paid to Date £35,664.23
What concerns me is that people are getting really stressed about the removal of the subsidy for spare rooms when in fact there remains spare capacity in the DHP budget. There are still the four options of downsizing, which a lot of people are doing, getting DHP, taking in a lodger (which is now in the financial interests of tenants much that the Taxpayers Alliance have criticised this) and simply paying it which some people are doing.
On Saturday I met another family living in a 1 bedroom council flat. They clearly want to move out. Hence there remains a lot of flexibility in the system.
What concerns me particularly is that the reporting of the "bedroom tax" often doesn't mention the options of DHP or taking in a lodger. It is very important that people know that they have a number of options. Often campaigners do not refer to DHP thereby discouraging people from asking about it.
Here is a detailed article about the court case. Here is the judgment.