Woman to appeal Haringey council tax ruling

A single mother is to continue a legal battle with a north London council over plans to make people on benefits contribute to their council tax bill.

A High Court judge dismissed her claim but one of her lawyers said she would take the case to the Court of Appeal.

The woman's lawyers argued that Haringey Council's consultation over the changes was flawed.

Mr Justice Underhill said the process was not "fundamentally unfair" and ruled in the council's favour.

Local authorities are being asked to introduce their own council tax reduction schemes from April.

A study by the Resolution Foundation independent research group in January found nearly three quarters of local authorities in England were planning to increase demands on low-income families.

The woman, who has four children but cannot be named for legal reasons, complained Haringey Council acted unlawfully when consulting on its council tax reduction scheme.

The council said its consultation process was extensive, clear and comprehensive.

'Poorest people'

Alex Rook, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, representing the woman, said: "We are disappointed with the decision, which potentially means that 25,000 of the poorest, most vulnerable people in Haringey face the prospect of paying council tax for the first time.

"However, the judge has granted permission to appeal the ruling which we hope will take place as soon as possible."

Mr Rook said research had shown council tax bills could rise by up to £600 a year from April for some households.

"This is a lot of money to low-income families and many will simply not be able to afford the extra payments as they are already struggling to cover the basics such as food and heating."

Irwin Mitchell said it planned to challenge decisions by a number of councils in the near future, after being contacted by "vulnerable" people who thought changes proposed in their areas were unfair.

Haringey Council's consultation, involving claimants, residents and key stakeholders, ran from August to November, and included the council writing to the 36,000 households directly affected.

The council said it received more than 1,400 responses to the consultation.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) said: "Under the new localised system, councils are legally responsible for drawing up their schemes. The Government has provided £100m of transitional funding to help all councils develop well-designed schemes, maintain positive incentives to work and encourage best practice."

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