Sunday, 28 June 2015

Tribunal Judge calls for Judicial Review of Council Tax Scheme!

A 58-year-old community campaigner against the Tory 'bedroom tax', recently won a council tax appeal at the Valuation Tribunal of England sitting in Manchester in 2014.
Steve Anthony Fisher, a self-employed man from Dukinfield, appealed against a decision of his local authority Tameside Council, to bill him full council tax under its council tax scheme. Under a previous scheme Mr. Fisher had received council tax benefit in full. However, when the council changed its scheme in 2013, he was shocked to find that the council now expected him to pay full council tax even though his circumstances had not changed. He was also hit with a double whammy, when the council demanded a further £12.50 charge for his Tory bedroom tax because he was deemed to have a spare bedroom. Both charges together amounted to 50% of his disposable income.
Mr. Fisher has lived at his two bedroom house for the last thirty years. Believing that he had suffered an injustice and had been treated harshly, he appealed to the Valuation Tribunal. After two separate hearings, the Tribunal decided to allow his appeal in part, because the 'billing authority' (Tameside Council) had incorrectly applied their own scheme in relation to Mr. Fisher. In short they did not know their arse from their elbow.  
In his promulgated decision, Mr. P. Johnson (Tribunal Chairman), made the following obiter:  
  • This case raised potential grounds for Judicial Review of the Scheme and potential for challenge under the Articles and Protocols of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
  • While Mr Fisher's primary and legitimate concern was with the principal that he should be deemed to possess more income than he actually received, he noted that the Tameside area (or at least a substantial part of it) is an area in which Universal Credit has been introduced, but does not yet apply to all persons claiming Universal Credit. He believes that The Scheme has been drafted to dovetail with the Universal Credit Scheme, copying heavily from that scheme, but has failed to ensure fair treatment to persons not in receipt of Universal Credit.
  • The tribunal could not consider those matters, but recommends that Tameside MBC give urgent reconsideration to the wording of The Scheme, in light of the hardship caused to some persons claiming under the Scheme.
Given the Chairman's comments, Mr. Fisher would be keen to pursue the matter to Judical Review if legal aid was available. Alternatively, an organisation like C.A.B. or welfare rights, might want to investigate the matter further as it seems to affect many more people living in Tameside. Mr. Fisher can be contacted on

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