CM v Westminster CC. County Court at Central London. 1 December 2016
This was a s.204 appeal of Westminster CC’s decision, upheld on review, that Ms CM had accommodation available to her, so was not homeless.
Westminster had decided that Ms CM had accommodation available to her with her children in India.
Ms CM had come to the UK 16 years ago, and had been granted British Citizenship. She had not seen her children for 30 years.
On the s.204 appeal, Westminster argued that Ms CM was not forthcoming with information about her children and, therefore, it was entitled to conclude that she did have accommodation available to her.
Ms CM argued that:
- the council had not made sufficient enquiries
- the council did not properly consider whether Ms CM had any right to occupy her children’s accommodation
- the council had not considered whether it was reasonable for Ms CM to relocate to India having been in the UK for 16 years and being a British Citizen (as per Waltham Forest LBC v Maloba  1 WLR 2079)
- the council had failed to consider cultural issues involved and had required Ms CM to prove her case
The appeal was upheld on all four grounds, the decision quashed and remitted to the council for a fresh decision.
Anyone in any doubt about the truly adversarial nature of homeless applications these days should take note. (In particular, given the stuff that the Local Government Association are spouting in briefing notes on the Homelessness Reduction Bill, the LGA and indeed MPs should take note).
Westminster’s position appears to have been simply that because Ms CM hadn’t provided them with chapter and verse about her children – who she had not seen for 3o years! – that they were entitled to assume that she could live with them. The point of s.184 enquiries appears to have completely escaped the council. It is not to establish areas of lack of clarity that the council can then interpret in whatever manner they consider most beneficial for them. Nonetheless, Westminster maintained their position through review up to appeal hearing.