Corcern raised about CTRS appeals

In a letter to the Secretary of State dated 11 April, the AJTC observe:

Council Tax Reduction schemes

The Council and its Scottish and Welsh Committees have recently been actively engaged with officials in the Department for Communities and Local Government and in the Scottish and Welsh Governments in connection with the arrangements for the introduction of the new Council Tax Reduction schemes to succeed Council Tax Benefit. While we appreciate the Government’s position that such schemes are no longer the responsibility of DWP, we consider that any evaluation of welfare reform must also take account of changes to benefits which are being taken out of the welfare system by those reforms.

We have been concerned by the growing inconsistency in the emerging arrangements for managing Council Tax Reduction appeals in England, Scotland and Wales. Appeals in England and Wales will be heard by the Valuation Tribunals, whereas in Scotland a separate process of external review is proposed, the arrangements for which are still being developed. Valuation Tribunals in England may have some assistance from tribunal judiciary experienced in social security matters, though the arrangements here seem not to have been resolved. In Wales, not even that facility will be available.

From the outset, the AJTC has made its views clear about the unsuitability of the Valuation Tribunals, which hear appeals about the rating and valuation of property, to deal with appeals against a means-tested assessment of entitlement to reduction in council tax liability. Appeals concerning housing benefit will continue to be heard by judges in the First-tier Tribunal, with the result that claimants may have two appeals on largely identical issues running at the same time, one to the First-tier Tribunal, the other to the Valuation Tribunal,

each of which could lead to a different outcome. This situation will need very close monitoring and we hope that you will be ready to tackle with other Government departments the almost inevitable difficulties that will arise now that policy responsibility has been divided between a number of them.