13 February 2013

The council tax case against Haringey's council tax benefit scheme was lost in the appeal court yesterday.

The poorest residents in Haringey have been shafted by the by the coalition in Parliament and by the Labour council in  Haringey.

The coalition cuts Haringey's central grant for council tax benefit by 10%, then Haringey asks their poorest residents if they would like the central government benefits they receive to be taxed by 20% of the council tax. That is all the law requires of the council. No matter that the benefits they are taxing are already being cut and capped by the coalition. It is a case the council cannot be proud of winning.

We argued that Haringey's consultation should have included more than the council's preferred option, which was to tax central government benefits with 20% of the council tax. They should also have shown enough information to enable consultees to be able make a rational decision about alternatives such a taking money out of reserves, or increasing council tax to maintain council tax benefit at 100%. Haringey should also have re-consulted when they heard. during their consultation, from the coalition that £700,000 would be added to the central government council tax grant if they kept the tax on benefits at 8.5%. They did not re-consult. 1400 answered their questionnaire.

It was not until after the consultation was finished that I learnt that an in crease of £45 a year, or 86 pence a week, on Band D (the average) would have kept the 100% benefit. I, like all other council tax payers, was not consulted. I volunteered by comments during the consultation.

The council argued that the law in Local Government Finance Act 2012 required them to consult only the 36,000 council tax benefit claimants in Haringey about the council's preferred option to tax benefit claimants with 20% of the council tax, they did no have to consul about alternatives, and they did not have to re-consult. The three judges agreed with them.

The impoverished circumstances of the poorest residents in Haringey, before the coalition's assault on benefits and worsening because of it, were not discussed.

The judges reasons have yet to be published. Consideration is being given to an appeal to the Supreme Court to establish the principles of consultation for next year when the process starts all over again.