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When you apply for Housing Benefit, we will give you a decision in writing about your claim. If you disagree with our decision you can challenge it. You can do this with most types of decisions where you believe that the determination is inaccurate because of something we did wrong or did not know about. There are different ways in which you can challenge our decision. You can:

  • ask us to explain our decision;
  • ask for the decision to be looked at again;
  • ask for an independent Appeal tribunal to look at our decision.

You will need to be clear about what you want us to do.

Explain our decision

You can ask us to give you a statement of reasons to explain how we made our decision. You will need to write to us requesting this and we will send you our reasons in writing.

What should you do if you want us to look at your decision again?

You must write to us within one month of the date on the decision letter. You must be specific about why we should reconsider our decision and provide any relevant supporting evidence to enable us to do so. If there are special circumstances that mean you cannot write to us within one month, you must contact us to explain why, as we may still be able to look at our decision again.

What happens when the Council looks at the decision again?

The decision will be checked by a different officer to the one who made the original decision to see if it is correct. We will then write to you and tell you whether we have changed our original decision. If the decision cannot be changed our letter will confirm why. If you still disagree, you can ask for your case to be considered by an independent tribunal.

You want to appeal, what should you do?

Time limits apply. You have one month from the date of the letter telling you about the original decision, or the outcome of the reconsideration, to submit your appeal. A late appeal may be accepted if you have special circumstances, such as a death or serious illness, that prevented you appealing in time, but not if more than 13 months have passed.

How should you appeal?

Appeals must:-

  • be made in writing
  • be signed by the “person affected”, usually the claimant
  • include what part of the decision you think is wrong
  • the reasons why you think the decision is wrong.

Who can appeal?

Any person affected can submit an appeal - a person affected can be either the claimant, their appointee or in some cases a landlord. All appeals must be made to the Council in writing.

What happens when you appeal?

An Appeals Officer - not the officer who made the original decision- will look at your case. If the decision can be changed in your favour, it will be. If, however, the Appeals Officer believes that the decision is correct, your appeal will be forwarded to HM Courts & Tribunal Service for a decision.

What happens at the Hearing? 

The hearing will be before an independent tribunal – which, despite the name, is usually one person. They are normally a Barrister or Solicitor and are completely independent of the Council. You will have the opportunity to put your case. If you have evidence, documents, etc it is a good idea to send these to the Tribunal Service, before the hearing. You can be accompanied by a friend or representative, who can speak for you, but there are no cost awarded – even if you win.

What happens after the hearing?

You will be notified of the Tribunal’s decision, the Council will also be notified. If the decision is in your favour, the Council will have the opportunity to challenge this at the Upper Tribunal. We will tell you if this is the case. If the Council decides not to challenge the decision, your benefit will be reassessed and any benefit due to you paid as soon as possible.
If the decision is not in your favour you can ask the Tribunal Service for a statement of reasons, you must do this within 1 month of the decision.
If you do not agree with the Tribunal’s decision you may take your appeal to the Upper Tribunal and your notification from the Tribunal Service will tell you how to do this.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme

From 01 April 2013, the local Council Tax Reduction Scheme replaced Council Tax Benefit.  This is a reduction in the amount of Council Tax you have to pay and not a benefit payment.  If you disagree with your Council Tax Reduction, you may initiate a challenge under section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, at any point after receiving confirmation of a council tax reduction. 

Council Tax payers will be notified in writing of their reductions under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

What should you do if you are not happy with our decision?

A Council Tax payer may request the Council reconsider its decision at any point after receiving confirmation of a council tax reduction. You must advise the Council in writing, stating the grounds on which you have a grievance against the Council's calculation. Council Tax Payers can only appeal if the Council has:

  • miscalculated their liability or 
  • misapplied the rules of the Council Tax Reduction scheme.  

Your request for reconsideration must include:

  • your full name and address;
  • the address that the appeal relates to;
  • the date on which you are appealing and the name of the Council to whom you are appealing
  • the date on which the you were notified of the reduction decision by the Council;
  • the grounds on which you are aggrieved (wish to appeal against);
  • reasons why you consider that the decision or calculation made by the Council was incorrect
  • where you have also made a housing benefit appeal to the Tribunal Service and the appeal raises common issues of fact, a statement to that effect.

The Council will then look at your claim and advise you of the outcome of the reconsideration, outlining the reasons why they believe the grievance is not well founded or confirming the steps taken to address the grievance.  If the decision is not changed in your favour, you have right to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for England within 2 months of the date of the reconsideration.

The Council must respond to you within two months of receiving a challenge to the CTR calculation.  

At what point can the taxpayer appeal to the Valuation Tribunal?

Before you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) you must have written to the Council explaining the grounds on which you are challenging the calculation of the council tax reduction, giving the Council an opportunity to resolve the matter.  If you remain aggrieved then you can appeal to the VTE within two months of receiving a written response from the Council.

If the Council fails to respond to your grievance within two months then you can appeal direct to the VTE within four months of sending your grievance to the Council's decision.

The VTE cannot hear appeals about the design and contents of the council reduction scheme, but only how the scheme has been applied to your circumstances.  If you believe that the scheme is unlawful then the remedy is to apply for judicial review in the High Court. Further information, contact details and forms on which to appeal to the VTE .

If you are not happy with the outcome of the Valuation Tribunal Appeal a further appeal can be made to the High Court on a point of law within four weeks of the date the decision notice is given or, where written reasons have been requested, within two weeks of the provision of those reasons, if later. It should be noted that there is no recourse to the Upper Tribunal in respect of CTRS appeals.