Blind doctor takes Croydon council to court over ‘discriminatory’ changes to tax scheme

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

A blind man who claims he was sent a council tax bill for hundreds of pounds when he was previously exempt is taking Croydon council to court for discrimination.

Dr Yusuf Ali Osman, who is self-employed, argues changes made by the authority to its Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTR) in 2022 meant some pensioners, disabled people, carers, students and foster parents faced council tax bills that they previously didn’t have to pay.

Changes to the scheme saw Croydon apply a Minimum Income Floor (MIF) to those who were exempt under Universal Credit regulations. It is only applied to those required to be in or looking for full-time work. 

It assumes self-employed people have a weekly income of £332.50, minus tax and national insurance, but some groups of people are realistically unable to achieve this level of income, the 44-year-old said.

He claims the Croydon council tax reduction scheme initially discriminated against him as a self-employed person with a disability because the minimum income floor was applied.

It was after Dr Osman’s decision to launch a legal challenge that Croydon council agreed to once again exempt him from council tax. This money also removed the medium income floor rule that affected him, meaning he will not have to pay council tax in 2023.

While it no longer affects him, Dr Osman says the scheme still affects others who are not expected to be in full-time work and believes other vulnerable residents are still left facing council tax bills.

Dr Osman said: “Croydon council only specifically provided an exemption from the minimum income floor for self-employed disabled residents after I launched a legal action and it is still failing to acknowledge the mistakes it has made.

“I feel strongly that Croydon should acknowledge that it has not introduced the minimum income floor in line with the universal credit regulations and that it has not continued to disregard all disability-related income.

“Its 2022 scheme did neither of these things, and none of the documents relating to the 2023 scheme indicate that the council has acknowledged these two fundamental issues.”

The case was due to be heard in the High Court, starting today. Dr Osman is represented by Leigh Day solicitor Kate Egerton, who said the changes had “discriminatory and irrational effects”. 

Ms Egerton added: “The 2023 changes still do not replicate the universal credit exemptions and the council continues to fail to acknowledge this.

“While the changes mean that disabled self-employed people now escape the minimum income floor they do not assist others who under universal credit would be exempted, for example carers, or people with young children.

“Further, we understand that there are other local authorities who may also have failed to exempt people with limited capability for work from the minimum income floor; we, therefore, hope that a positive result, in this case, will have an impact both in Croydon and nationally.”

Croydon council was contacted for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.

Pictured top: Dr Yusuf Osman is taking Croydon council to court (Picture: Leigh Day)