Residence test found to be illegal
The High Court found that a local authority, Sandwell Council in the West Midlands, acted unlawfully by having a prior residence requirement in deciding whether to apply a council tax rebate for those on low or no income. The judgment didn’t make the newspaper headlines, although the Guardian did write an article about it.
This precedent means that other councils, such as Basildon and Tendring Councils in Essex, that apply a residence test when deciding whether to reduce the amount of council tax due to low household income are also acting unlawfully.
The High Court found that Sandwell Council made an unlawful obstacle to people wishing to exercise EU free movement rights, and that the Council’s policy was indirect discrimination against non-British people, contrary to article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
A couple of thoughts.
The application of this is that all EU nationals should be able to claim a council tax rebate based solely on their household income. Undocumented and irregular migrants may still have a battle, but migrants and non-migrants moving their place of residence should no longer be subject to a prior residence test for a council tax rebate. Other safeguards such as housing and homelessness benefit may not be covered by this case. It will be interesting to see if sympathetic lawyers are up for testing residence tests on other local authority policies that provide for the most vulnerable.
It is good to see EU and European Convention on Human Rights laws being used pragmatically to determine a judgment. Why then are the Conservative party so minded to pull the UK out of the EU and the Council of Europe because of these laws?