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Royal Borough urged to consult on council tax changes for vulnerable residents

A councillor has questioned why the Royal Borough is yet to hold a second consultation into changes to council tax subsidies for vulnerable residents.

In February, the council pushed ahead with plans to change its council tax assistance scheme from a maximum 91.5 per cent subsidy to 80 per cent.

This saw contributions towards council tax bills more than double, from 8.5 per cent to 20 per cent, for low-income and vulnerable working-age residents.

Councillors gave the go-ahead to change the scheme despite only 21 of the 2,621 people affected responding to an online consultation.

Windsor resident Alan Gass challenged the council’s proposals at the High Court of Justice with the two parties coming to an agreement in April that the council had failed to carry out a lawful consultation ahead of the changes.

But Cllr Helen Price (The Borough First, Clewer & Dedworth East) has claimed a new consultation is yet to be carried out and more than 2,000 of the borough’s poorest residents are still paying increased council tax bills as a result.

She also believes the council should have overturned the full council decision once it received the High Court judgement.

She said: “I was most concerned about both the unfairness and unlawfulness of this situation – and raised it more than once at Overview and Scrutiny Panel and also at the Council Meeting, warning that it could result in legal action.

“It is very unfortunate that the council has incurred not only more stress for our vulnerable residents but also additional costs through being liable for all legal fees at a time when this borough can little afford it.

“Surely a compassionate council, mindful of the extreme financial difficulties being faced by our poorest residents at this stressful time, would have enacted the Consent Order immediately on it being published?”

Councillor David Hilton (Ascot and Sunninghill), lead member for finance, said: “We received a Judicial Review claim in respect of the decision-making process relating to the amended Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

“Following legal advice we made the decision that the most cost effective and proportionate solution was to agree to undertake a fresh consultation, including a fresh Equalities Impact Assessment.”

He said the decision made at full council back in February is still in effect so residents were not being ‘overcharged’.

He said a paper would go to full council to reconsider the decision following a consultation.

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  • andrewfhill

    13:28, 05 September 2020

    RBWM admits unlawful consultation (their words). This is the first ever such admission to my knowledge. This is therefore huge news for everyone in the Borough who believes in fairness and transparency. In plain English - RBWM increased the taxation paid by those with least by more than 200%, while those with more had an increase of around 4%. Does that sound fair or right to you? Alan successfully stood up for thousands of residents who had their right to speak unlawfully taken, and for everone else in the Borough who respects the rule of law. This is an exceptional act in the public interest - and to my knowledge represents the first ever such reconsultation in the UK. Only 0.8% of those on CTRS affected responded, basically because they were not told about it. RBWM argued that the postal costs of letting everyone know were too high. Then squandered vast sums on lawyers pointlessly. Ironic and wrong in equal measure. TBF Independent Cllr Helen Price and I warned in advance. RBWM in High Court consent order CO/1251/2020 agreed that the they "failed to carry out a lawful consultation" and "confirmed it will undertake a fresh consultation". When? Date? No reconsultation was publicly announced, let alone actioned since April (when fault was admitted). Your article is very important, as it reports that RBWM are now claiming that taxation can be collected from the poorest in our community without first complying with all mandatory statutory preconditions. Wrong.

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