Sunday, 29 March 2015

Govan Law Centre endorses Living Rent campaign and calls for real rights for Scotland's private rented sector tenants

Govan Law Centre's Board of Trustees have agreed to endorse and support the Living Rent campaign in Scotland.

The campaign seeks proper fair rent controls in Scotland's private rented sector (PRS), as well as security of tenure for tenants in that sector.

Govan Law Centre (GLC) is deeply concerned that the greatest rise in 'severe' and 'extreme poverty' in Scotland is amongst PRS tenants.  While the latest annual figures show that severe poverty in other housing tenures have fallen in Scotland, the number in poverty in the PRS rose by 140,000.

Housing costs now amount on average to 24 per cent of the income of private renters - compared with 20 per cent a decade ago - and in comparison to 18 per cent of social renters’ income and 11 per cent for owner-occupiers with a mortgage.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, set out our calls for  progressive law reform and regulatory change in Scotland at the launch of the Glasgow Living Rent campaign at the CCA in Glasgow on Saturday 28 March 2015.  Mike's speech is available (as a PDF) here

Private sector tenants need meaningful legal rights. The current landlord registration schemes needs revamped and strengthened. We need to remove the bad landlords and letting agencies from the register. 

We need a national strategy and co-ordination of enforcement. Proactive enforcement with legal teeth. 

GLC believes we need a Scotland-wide PRS inspectorate with full regulatory powers to set a proper standard of good practice, with the power to prosecute landlords and letting agencies across the country. 

We need a robust statutory mechanism to set rents at a fair and reasonable level. A mechanism that is practical and works for tenants. And most importantly, we need genuine security of tenure for PRS tenants.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Pension reforms: liberation or freedom to lose your pension pot?!

From April 6th anyone aged 55 or over will be able to access all of their pension savings as a cash lump sum if it is in a 'Defined Contribution' scheme (as opposed to 'Defined Benefit' scheme which promises a specific income/salary). 

This lump sum is money you've been saving in your pension pot over many years, if not decades, and it has generally been paid in 'tax free'. In other words, the income tax normally deducted from your salary and employers contributions has been paid into the pot too.

This is because it has been a long standing policy of all UK Governments to encourage and help people make provision for their retirement and later life.

The UK Government has been promoting next month's changes to UK pension law as 'the pensions freedom revolution'.  Yet, empowerment to access all of your pension pot from 6 April 2015 might also be seen as freedom to lose your money or get ripped off.

What has not been publicised with equal vigour and prominence is that if you 'cash-in' your pension fund next month you can only take 25% of it tax free.  The other 75% is taxed at your marginal rate. Let's look at an illustration.

Example at 6 April 2015
So you currently pay 20% tax - and let say you earn £24,000 per annum - and you cash-in a pension pot worth £50,000. You can obtain £12,500 tax free.

The balance of £37,500 is treated as your income during the 2015/16 tax year. So your earnings are now £61,500. In relation to the balance of your pension pot you are liable to pay 20% rate tax on the first £7,785, and 40% tax on £29,715 of that balance. Your extra tax bill is £13,443.

To think of it another way - you had a pension pot worth £50,000, but cashing in all of it at once next month (instead of taking a quarter of it tax free) means you lose almost £15,000 in tax!

So you need to think very cautiously and extremely carefully whether you should 'liberate' all of your life savings. 

People often underestimate how long they live for, and making the wrong decision now could not only be expensive, but could prove detrimental in later life.  You can obtain free online guidance from the UK Government's Pension Wise online service and the Money Advice Service.

Two further issues are worth mentioning. First, whatever you do don't get scammed. If something sounds to good to be true, it usually isn't true. So don't get ripped off. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also has good information on pension scams.  If in doubt take independent financial advice from an advisor regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

We also post below a helpful '60 seconds' tips on pension law changes from personal finance broadcaster and writer Fergus Muirhead.

Second, the law remains unsatisfactory and unclear as regards the ability of a trustee in bankruptcy to access a Defined Contributions pension fund. There are conflicting English High Court decisions, for example the cases of Raithatha v Williamson [2012] EWHC 909 (Ch), and Horton v Henry [2014] EWHC 4209 (Ch).

Govan Law Centre believes the position should be place beyond doubt: trustees in bankruptcy should not be able to access an uncrystallised pension fund (in other words a pension which is still locked and not accessed by the debtor).  The law should be clarified by the UK Government and Scottish Government (where bankruptcy is devolved).

Disclaimer: this blog provides information only and does not represent legal or financial advice. You should always obtain your own independent and regulated legal or financial advice from a solicitor or qualified independent financial advisor.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Recruitment: GLC Education Law Unit - vacancies for parent sub-committee members

  • Job type: Project Delivery Sub-Committee Members
  • Status: Management Board
  • Closing date: 31/03/2015
  • Location: Glasgow


Govan Law Centre’s Education Law Unit aims to uphold, protect and enforce the rights of pupils and parents across Scotland by providing expert legal, and non-legal representation at tribunals and courts; provide advice and information about education law; and work with stakeholders to influence legislation and policy with regard to education and the law.
We seek two parents to be part of our Project Delivery Sub-Committee to provide strategic guidance and manage the performance at the Education Law Unit alongside our current Committee members. The Committee’s functions are as follows:
  • Provide guidance and direction, make decisions to steer the progress and delivery of the project;
  • Monitor and approve the progress of the project against the aims of the project;
  • Approve project documentation provided by the project manager;
  • Provides timely and appropriate visibility of project progress and key risks and issues to the Board of Trustees as required; and
  • Proactively managed project risks.
The meetings take place on a quarterly basis and there is no payment to attend such meetings, although reasonable travel expenses can be met.

Organisation profile:

Govan law centre (GLC) is an independent, charitable community controlled law centre operating in Scotland.


Govan Law Centre (GLC) is a registered Scottish charity: SCO30193. All GLC legal services are provided by the independent legal practice of Dailly & Co., Solicitors. The Education Law Unit is partly funded by the Third Sector Early Intervention Fund, a joint initiative of the Scottish Government and the Big Fund in Scotland. Let’s Talk ASN is a joint initiative of Govan Law Centre and Kindred Advocacy (Charity No. SC000264). It is funded by the Scottish Government.

Application notes:

If you are interested, please contact Anne Taylor by email on or by letter to Govan Law Centre, Orkney Street Enterprise Centre, 18-20 Orkney Street, Unit 4, Glasgow, G51 2BZ. Expressions of interest should be returned no later than 31 March 2015.