Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill

----Preface/link statement starts----
The Department for Work & Pensions and the main political parties say that sanctioning benefit claimants who refuse to 'toe the line' is only fair to decent hardworking taxpayers. KUWG's friend Revd Paul Nicolson was so incensed with such statements that he set up Taxpayers Against Poverty. Here he warns of the imminent dangers of an out-of-control political class rewriting the law.
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Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill 

This Bill is to be rushed through all its stages in the House of Commons on Tuesday. It will undo the Poundland decision. The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants,  who were illegally punished,  an average payout of between £530 and £570 each. I recieved this from Elizabeth Reed this morning. 

http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/is-labour-planning-to-betray-its-core-supporters-by-siding-with-iain-duncan-smith/

In response to lobbying by the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust  during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said on the 25th January 2012. ; 

"We spoke about the Wednesbury principles at our seminar, and I can reassure noble Lords that the decision-making process is and will continue to be consistent with these fundamental principles of public law. The department strives to ensure that no decision is influenced by irrelevant factors and that decision-makers act in a rational and fair manner, taking into account all relevant matters before exercising a discretion. For example, the primary legislation expressly sets out that a conditionality sanction applies only if there is no good reason for the failure. In determining whether there is such good reason, decision-makers will have to consider all relevant matters raised by the claimant within a particular time period, including information about a claimant's health condition and financial circumstances.

It is worth noting that when it comes to failures to meet work-related requirements, we get the vast majority of the decisions right. In 2010-11, just 0.2 per cent of JSA sanction and disentitlement decisions were overturned 

25 Jan 2012 : Column 1062

at a First-tier Tribunal. Of course, the aim must be to get every decision right. We must ensure that our training and guidance equips advisers and decisions-makers with the tools to understand the circumstances and needs of vulnerable claimants, such as homeless claimants and those with mental health conditions. We must also ensure that the notifications and explanations of decisions to impose sanctions or penalties are clear, straightforward and easy to understand. I accept that there is room for improvement here, and we will make that improvement."We spoke about the Wednesbury principles at our seminar, and I can reassure noble Lords that the decision-making process is and will continue to be consistent with these fundamental principles of public law. For example, the primary legislation expressly sets out that a conditionality sanction applies only if there is no good reason for the failure. In determining whether there is such good reason, decision-makers will have to consider all relevant matters raised by the claimant within a particular time period, including information about a claimant's health condition and financial circumstances.”

The Wednesbury  Principles were established by the High Court in Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd. v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1 KB 223. They require all officials to take into account all relevant evidence, ignore irrelevant evidence, to be rational and to follow the laid down procedures. Clearly they did not do that in the Poundland case. They were endorsed by Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012,

There will be more large legal mistakes made when while the Universal Credit is introduced - are we to expect another retrocative Bill every time the Jobcentres get it wrong. 


Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road, 
Tottenham, 
London N17 0BF
0208 3765455
07961 177889
also at www.z2k.org 
also at www.prohousingalliance.com
www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk
www.facebook.com/pages/Taxpayers-Against-Poverty/299911526728884


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What councils don't tell you about the enforcement of council tax

----Preface/link statement begins----
Councillors passing on central government-imposed cuts apparently lack the principles of workfare throughput who get sanctioned for not following orders that they object to. And while councillors can no longer be sanctioned for opposing central government-imposed cuts in public spending, they say that if they did not pass on those cuts, council officers would do so in less benign ways. Anti-poverty campaigner and KUWG friend Revd Paul Nicolson argues otherwise.
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----Guest blog piece begins----
What councils don't tell you about the enforcement of council tax. 
Millions of people who do not pay the council tax now will be charged 8.5% to 20% from the 1st April. Millions will not be able to afford it; councils knew that when they made those irrational decisions. 
Councils will not tell you;
1. That they have the discretion to write off the tax for vulnerable and impoverished people  under clause 10 (1) 13A (1) of the Local Government Finance Act 2012. It is necessary for the council tax benefit claimant to write a letter to the council setting out their financial circumstances, all debts, and all relevant information such  as health/disability. Payment of the bedroom tax, rent due to the overall benefit tax and the rent due to the housing benefit tax would be relevant.
2. That the bottom line is the income left after rent and council tax needed for food,  fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities; that has to be a reasonable amount if councils (and jobcentres) abide by the Wednesbury Principles as required by law and endorsed by coalition ministers. 
2. That page 9 of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents, published by the Ministry of Justice in 2012,  sets out a procedure for bailiffs to return vulnerable cases from the door step to all creditors, including councils for council tax and courts for fines,  when there are vulnerable, or a change of, circumstance.
3. That Ministers from the DWP, the DCLG and the MOJ all stated during the passage of the Acts of Parliament, which are creating such misery, how concerned they were for vulnerable people; see their statements as recorded in Hansard in the attached file. Councils and Jobcentres should be reminded that is the coalitions policy; even though crocodile's tears come to mind.
The details are on the TAP website. 
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road, 
Tottenham, 
London N17 0BF
0208 3765455
07961 177889
also at www.z2k.org 


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