Source : 16/02/1995 Northampton Chronicle and Echo
A battle between a religious group and a Northamptonshire council over housing benefit payments is heading for the High Court.
Benefits to help pay the rent of Christians staying at Jesus Fellowship communes in the county were axed in the autumn of 1993.
Since then a legal wrangle has advanced in three stages - and on each occasion Daventry District Council's original decision was upheld.
The council's director of finance. Paul Cook, said a clause in the benefit scheme meant the Bugbrooke-based Jesus Fellowship was exempt from claiming.
'The scheme is designed to cover tenancies which are of a normal business footing. Tenancies which have a proper commercial basis,' he said.
'This was set up to stop payments being made to people living with friends or relatives.'
'For example, where someone is still living with their parents, they could not claim housing benefit to pay their mum rent.'
The council looked at the Fellowship's tenancy agreement and discovered that, in addition to paying a weekly charge fro rent and board, members put anything over that in a central purse. That meant it was not a normal commercial tenancy.
John Campbell, Communications officer at the Jesus Fellowship, which runs a number of businesses including Goodness Foods, TBS Builder Supplies in Daventry and White and Bishop in Northampton, said the organisation was fighting for equality.
'Fellowship members or people living within the commune have a right to housing benefit the same as anyone else,' he said.
Mr Campbell added that, if unsuccessful, 'we will have to reconsider how far we are able to offer accommodation to people in need.'
'If it is not financially viable then we can't do it.'
A date for the appeal, which would be heard in the High Court, is yet to be fixed.