Council tax hardship payments judgment victory

Thu,29 May 2014

SC v East Riding of Yorkshire Council [2014]

The President of the Valuation Tribunal (England) has issued a landmark judgment confirming that the Tribunal has unlimited power to overturn decisions by councils which refuse to award discretionary hardship payments.

For many years, the law has given local councils the power to reduce any resident's council tax liability to "nil".

However, this power has been brought into sharper focus since the abolition of council tax benefit from April 2013. Instead of receiving a full council tax rebate many disabled people in receipt of means tested benefits now have a shortfall to pay.

In his judgment, the President confirms that if a council refuses to exercise this power for a particular resident, they can appeal to his tribunals. The tribunals will have full power to order the council to make a further - or total - reduction, depending on the facts of each case. Previous guidance issued by the President, suggesting that the Tribunal had limited power in such cases, will be withdrawn.

Hopefully, the result will prompt many more applications to councils for waiver of all council tax liability for the poorest households and many more appeals to tribunals against negative decisions.

The President of the Valuation Tribunal judgment is available at