Council made unlawful decisions when re-housing homeless people in the city, judge rules (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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St Albans District Council made unlawful decisions when re-housing homeless people in the city, judge rules
Decisions to re-house homeless people in St Albans, made on behalf of the district council over the last four years, have been illegal a judge has ruled.
During a court hearing last week, Lynda Hadnutt was one of the three clients from St Albans, whose housing appeal was unlawfully reviewed when she became homeless in 2012.
During a court hearing at Bedfordshire Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, January 21, Honour Judge Harris ruled Minos Perdios of the Housing Reviews Centre, who reviewed housing decisions on behalf of the St Albans District Council, as having ‘no legal powers’ to decide they were not to be housed.
It was ruled that when the council transferred its "discretionary decisions" to Mr Perdios in 2010 it was breaking its own constitution. As a result previous decisions made by Mr Perdios have now been quashed.
When Ms Hadnutt, 57, initially applied to be housed in St Albans, a review found she was not of ‘priority need’.
Having formally lived in St Albans, Ms Hadnutt moved to Tenerife in 2003. After returning to the UK in 2012, she found herself homeless and sofa surfing, often on her sisters’ sofa.
In her appeal, Ms Hadnutt argued she was a vulnerable single woman in her 50s with physical and dietary disabilities.
Ms Hadnutt said: "This ruling in law has a plus side because the council have been forced down on their knees and will not get away with it in the future. I don’t want them to get away with it.
"These last few years have been absolute hell. I have 40 years of my life in storage and I can’t get back into my career.
"When I applied for housing, I felt like the council were very prejudice of me and begrudged that I once had a property in St Albans but chose to move away.
"However no one can predict the future and I was physically forced to come back to the UK.
"I am now at an age and in debts that I don’t have a 10 year working life ahead of me."
Despite the court decision, Ms Hadnutt, stressed she was "still in limbo." She said: "Although the council will never be able to do this again I am still at the mercy of the council and the solicitor, who is forcing the council to look at the picture as a whole.
"I am still in limbo and will now have wait and find out whether I will be listed as a priority need. This is just the start."
Ms Hadnutt is now living in temporary accommodation in Grosvenor Road and says she awaits the outcome of her housing needs with anxiety.
She has just completed PCV licence training and hopes to get back into full time employment.
She added: "I don’t have a clue what is going to happen and where and if they will re-house me."
Barrister Toby Vanhegan, representing the city’s clients said: "The contract was put in place in a rather informal manner. Passing resolution should have taken place in cabinet by cabinet members.
"St Albans District council didn’t retrospectively ratify decisions and there are a lot of people out there in St Albans, who would have had decisions made from him, which are unlawful and had not been properly or valuably reviewed."
Mike Lovelady, Head of Legal, Democratic and Regulatory Services at St Albans City and District Council, said: "These review decisions will now need to be reconsidered by the council. We are taking legal advice on the implications of this decision."
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