Case No: CO/1822/2015
6 November 2015
Disability and age
Summary of case
This was a challenge to the council tax rules adopted by the London Borough of Havering (LBH) by a disabled man. The claimant is a man of 55. He lives with his wife and adult son. He suffers from a multiplicity of health problems that make him disabled and is assessed to have enhanced disability under the statutory scheme. He is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) of £139.79 per week that is made up of £82.30 for care and £57.45 for mobility; these are both at the highest rates available having regard to the extent of his needs. The overall income to the claimant and his wife from DLA and ESA is thus £348.29 per week (disregarding for present purposes a discrepancy in actual receipts that the claimant was pursuing with the Job Centre at the time of his second statement). His combination of medical conditions means that he cannot undertake any employment, and as they are unlikely to improve he will never be able to do so. His wife is his registered carer. His son also suffered an accident that means he cannot work at present.
In 2014-15 LBH adopted a Council Tax scheme that meant that people with the claimant’s level of income and disability received a 100% rebate. In 2014 a report was prepared by officers to the LBH cabinet setting out the case for reducing the rebate to 85% for the 2015-16 year this report reminded the cabinet members of their Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under the Equality Act 2010. Attached to the report was an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA). This action was then recommended to the full Council but the report to the cabinet with the EIA was not circulated to all the Council members although it was available to them electronically. LBH agreed to the reduced rebate.
In March the claimant succeeded in obtaining a further 15% discretionary relief. He nevertheless sought a JR decision that adoption of the scheme was unlawful and a quashing order requiring a fresh decision to be taken
Blake J concluded that the EIA was not defective as the claimants had alleged, however, there was insufficient evidence to show that due regard was had to the EIA by those who took the decision. He considered that there was sufficient vindication of the public interest and the claimant’s rights in this litigation for his conclusion to be stated in a declaratory judgment and no other formal relief is needed. It is worth noting that he did consider the new provisions in s.31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 and concluded that it did not prevent the Court giving a declaratory judgment although it might have been a different matter had it been raised at the permission stage.