Nothing better illustrates the vile hypocrisy of Maria Miller and the MPs on the House of Commons standards committee than the contrast between the treatment of Paul and Susan Rutherford and the treatment of Miller herself.
Paul and Susan Rutherford – themselves disabled - look after their severely disabled 13 year old grandson, Warren, in their specially adapted home.
Paul and Susan were originally clients of our own Sangeeta Enright. They have an additional bedroom in their home for carers who stay overnight twice a week to give Paul and Susan some respite. By caring for their grandson at home the Rutherfords save the taxpayer the massive cost of residential care for Warren.
But, in spite of David Cameron insisting in July last year that:
“Anyone who needs to have a carer sleeping in another bedroom is exempt from the spare room subsidy.”
the Rutherford’s have been hit by the bedroom tax. This is because a spare room for carers is only permitted if it is the claimant or their partner who needs a carer, not if it is a disabled child.
When they applied to their local council for a discretionary housing payment the Rutherfords were also refused that on the grounds that they should use Warren’s DLA to pay for the shortfall in their rent.
The case has been taken to Judicial review by CPAG. Tom Royston, of Garden Court North Chambers, who recently provided Benefits and Work with a round-up of bedroom tax case law, will be acting for the Rutherfords.
Between 2010 and 2012, Maria Miller was minister for the disabled, part of the DWP team that created the bedroom tax which has been applied so harshly to the Rutherfords.
When she became an MP, Miller designated her family home as her second home and claimed expenses on it, in spite of the fact that her parents were living there and expenses rules clearly forbade MPs to house their parents at the taxpayers’ expense.
Miller was ordered by the commissioner for parliamentary standards to repay £45,000 in expenses and apologise.
However, the House of Commons standards committee, which is made up of MPs and has the final say, ruled that she needed only to repay £5,500 in overpaid interest payments. They decided that as Miler was caring for her parents in her home before she started claiming expenses, she should be let off the £40,000 in wrongly claimed expenses.
Miller has since sold her taxpayer subsidised home for a profit of over £1 million, but not before designating it as her main home again to reduce tax liabilities.
So, if you are an ordinary citizen as well as a decent and incredibly selfless carer saving the state a fortune, you deserve to be penalised in these times of austerity.
If you are a government minister ignoring the rules and making a massive profit as a result, you deserve to be let off with a tiny repayment and a 32 second apology.
There is a petition calling on Miller to repay the £40,000 or resign here. It had received 150,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Anyone wanting to read the entire correspondence between Miller and the commissioner can do so here.