1. Barristers warn legal aid reforms are “unjust”.
90 leading barristers signed a letter condemning the government’s plans to restrict the judicial review process, warning it was ‘unfair’, ‘unjust’ and would lead to the closure of public law firms.
The plans create an extra barrier to bring authorities to judicial review, by implementing a stage of permission. Those wishing to bring forward a case against an institution such as the government must first ask permission, and should it be refused, law firms will not receive money for their work and the case will be stopped.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, said the process will filter out ‘weak’ cases, saving money for the public purse.
However, the letter from concerned figures within the Bar, urged the government to ‘withdraw proposals’ adding:
“We are gravely concerned that practical access to justice is now under threat…The cumulative effect of these proposals will seriously undermine the rule of law, and Britain’s global reputation for justice.”
2. More misleading statistics challenged by UKSA
The UK Statistics Authority has once again challenged the government over a misleading use of statistics.
Tory chairman, Grant Shapps, had previously been quoted as saying that nearly half a million people ‘had taken themselves off’ incapacity benefit rather than sit a medical test. Also, a report released in March suggested that this figure was actually around 878,300.
However, Andrew Dilnot from the UKSA, said that the 878,300 figure related to the number of claims closed by new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance during a period between 2008 and 2012. Mr Dilnot explained that one of the reasons for the closed cases was recovery of the individual and return to work, or a move to a different or more suitable benefit.
The DWP have had a tumultuous relationship with the UKSA recently, with other challenges on statistics including Child Support Agency statistics and health funding claims.
The House of Commons released a report on Wednesday, in light of recent events, calling for government statistics to be reported accurately and fairly.
3. UK faces court over benefits for EU nationals
The UK faces court for allegedly discriminating against EU nationals on welfare payments.
The extra right-to-reside test given to EU nationals coming to the UK is additional to the EU standard test, and restricts access to welfare and benefits. It is claimed this test is in breach of EU law.
Iain Duncan Smith said that he would not ‘cave in’ to the EU, in a case that could take years to complete. Adding that he was confident of the ‘strong ground’ the government had taken to defend the criteria for claiming benefits in the UK.
4. Leeds council tackle ‘bedroom tax’ with re-classification
Leeds council are fighting the bedroom tax by reclassifying over 800 rooms liable for the charge as “non-specific rooms”.
The loophole means that tenants in social housing can avoid paying around £14 a week for each ‘spare’ room, which the government charges for under-occupancy.
Tenants who have paid out on the tax in the last two months, but have managed to re-classify their rooms, will be refunded.