QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|CITY OF WESTMINSTER||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR DAVID WARNER (instructed by City of Westminster Council, SW1E) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
Crown Copyright ©
"You recently asked us to move you to another temporary home. Having carefully considered your circumstances, we have decided not to offer you another temporary home at the moment. The reason for this is that we believe the accommodation you have now is suitable for you.
"Firstly, the temporary accommodation you currently occupy is managed by Eurolets. Any transfer request must first be discussed with them. You can contact Eurolets and make an appointment with them to visit you. We cannot accept transfer requests that have not come from Eurolets. They will decide whether they feel you are in priority need for a transfer. If they believe this to be the case, they will refer your case to us. We would then decide whether to offer you a transfer to alternative temporary self-contained accommodation. So, at this point we are not considering you for a move to alternative temporary self-contained accommodation because we have not received this documentation. Once again, I advise you to address this matter with Eurolets directly.
"Also, we felt that there are insufficient grounds for a transfer on social grounds. I did refer your case to our education liaison officer who felt that because your children are not of exam age, it would be reasonable of us to expect you to move your children to a school nearer to your current address. That way they would be able to get to school on time and there would be less pressure on you to travel so far to take them to school.
"If you have any questions about this matter, please phone us; our call centre officers will be happy to answer your enquiry."
The letter is then signed off.
"7. This witness statement does not purport to set out the legal argument of the Council but it may assist if I state that the Council in opposing the application relies upon the following facts and matters:-
(i) Mr Zaher refused the accommodation on two occasions and gave reasons for his refusal;
(ii) The Council considered the reasons and decided that the accommodation was suitable;
(iii) The Council informed Mr Zaher of his right to have the decision of suitability reviewed;
(iv) Mr Zaher accepted the accommodation and did not seek a review of the decision of suitability.
"8. I now turn to the letter dated 14th June 2002. The second paragraph identifiesI was a procedure the Council adopted in order to deal with a request for transfer from accommodation the Council does not manage. Eurolets was the first port of call because they managed the accommodation occupied by Mr Zaher and would have been more knowledgeable about the accommodation and its locality. For those reasons the Council asked Mr Zaher to first contact Eurolets.
"9. As to the third paragraph of that letter, the Council as a central London authority has for many years been faced with very large numbers of applications under the Act (and before it under the Housing Act 1985) and has had to react to that demand by providing accommodation outside of the City of Westminster. Whilst treating each case on its merits, the Council when making decisions of suitability has often had to take account of the fact that there will be good educational and medical facilities available within those areas. Whilst it may be preferable for children to stay at their current schools, there are many reasons why and circumstances in which children of families being provided with housing assistance and of families who are not may have to move. This is a case in which the Council considers a change of school would be reasonable should the parents decide that the journey is too long.
"10. It may assist if I state that the Council in opposing the application relies upon the following facts and matters:-
(i) its previous decision of suitability and the absence of a request for a review;
(ii) the fact that Mr Zaher has been asked to first contact Eurolets;
(iii) the fact that there will be good educational and medical facilities available within the area of 59, Laurel Lane.
"11. The Council has not carried out a review as requested by letter from Mr Zaher's solicitors by letter dated 26th June 2002. The Council does not consider that there was a decision to review. If there was, the Council will also rely upon the facts and matters set out above in support of its grounds for contesting the claim."
"203(1) The Secretary of State may make provision by regulations as to the procedure to be followed in connection with a review under section 202.
Nothing in the following provisions affects the generality of this power.
"(2) Provision may be made by regulations-
(a) requiring the decision on review to be made by a person of appropriate seniority who was not involved in the original decision, and
(b) as to the circumstances in which the applicant is entitled to an oral hearing, and whether and by whom he may be represented at such a hearing.
"(3) The authority, or as the case may be either of the authorities, concerned shall notify the applicant of the decision on the review.
"(4) If the decision is-
(a) to confirm the original decision on any issue against the interests of the applicant, or
(b) to confirm a previous decision-
(i) to notify another authority under section 198 (referral of cases), or
(ii) that the conditions are met for the referral of his case,
they shall also notify him of the reasons for the decision.
"(5) In any case they shall inform the applicant of his right to appeal to a county court on a point of law, and of the period within which such an appeal must be made (see section 204).
"(6) Notice of the decision shall not be treated as given unless and until subsection (5), and where applicable subsection (4), is complied with.
"(7) Provision may be made by regulations as to the period within which the review must be carried out and notice given of the decision.
"(8) Notice required to be given to a person under this section shall be given in writing and, if not received by him, shall be treated as having been given if it is made available at the authority's office for a reasonable period for collection by him or on his behalf.
Right of appeal to county court on point of law.
"204(1) If an applicant who has requested a review under section 202-
(a) is dissatisfied with the decision on the review, or
(b) is not notified of the decision on the review within the time prescribed under section 203,
he may appeal to the county court on any point of law arising from the decision or, as the case may be, the original decision.
"(2) An appeal must be brought within 21 days of his being notified of the decision or, as the case may be, of the date on which he should have been notified of a decision on review.
"(3) On appeal the court may make such order confirming, quashing or varying the decision as it thinks fit.
"(4) Where the authority were under a duty under section 188, 190 or 200 to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation, they may continue to secure that accommodation is so available-
(a) during the period for appealing under this section against the authority's decision, and
(b) if an appeal is brought, until the appeal (and any further appeal) is finally determined."
"In any case they shall inform the applicant of his right to appeal to a county court on a point of law, and of the period within which such an appeal must be made."
"While I have considerable sympathy with the Council, I do not think that the qualifications which Mr Woolf submits are necessary can be read into the words of the statute. Parliament has not qualified the duty in any way: it could have done. However, the situation for the Council is not quite as desperate as might be thought. While the duty exists, no court will enforce it unreasonably. Mr Luba accepts that it would be unreasonable for an applicant to seek mandamus within a few days of the duty arising if it were clear that the Council was doing all that it could, nor, in its discretion, would a court make such a order. Indeed, permission would probably be refused. Furthermore, [and this is the important passage] whether or not accommodation is suitable may depend upon how long it is to be occupied and what is available. It may be reasonable to expect a family to put up with conditions for a few days which would be clearly unsuitable if they had to be tolerated for a number of weeks."