Rev Paul Nicolson, Council Tax protest - update
Guest blog piece by Council Tax protester Paul himself
The regressive council tax and its draconian enforcement is profoundly unfair on the benefit claimants, in work and unemployment, I have been working with for the past 25 years.
On the 4th March I filed my application to the High Court for judicial review of the Tottenham Magistrates refusal to explain how they arrive at £125 court costs each for 23,000 liability orders in the Borough of Haringey and of , Haringey council's enforcement of court costs on which they are making a profit.
I also asked the Magistrates to explain to the High Court why they do not issue stamped and sealed orders to debtors, for the liabilty orders, like all other courts do when they make a decision.
I asked the council what authority they have to enforce council tax against me without a stamped and sealed order from the court - silence from the council.
Haringey will now ask the court to take their name off my application but I have opposed that by telling the High Court.
"I write to clarify my application. There are two decisions under challenge - the Council's decision to seek costs on a basis which included overheads not properly regarded as 'actual costs', so is making a profit, and the magistrates' decision to award them. The Council is challenged in relation to the former".
Mary Ward Legal Centre has supported my application to the Bar Pro-Bono Unit for formal representation. I delivered it yesterday.
I am asking the High Court to order the Tottenham Magistrates and the Haringey Magistrates to explain themselves.
Magistrates give the council huge powers, including sending in the bailiffs with fees in the £100s, to enforce the court costs on top of the council tax arrears and on top the rent arrears resulting from central government's caps on housing benefit. Often against the adult JSA of £71.70 a week which will increase by 70 pence a week on the 6th April.
Since April 2013 Haringey Council has been enforcing 20% of the council tax against benefit claimants; the first time benefits have been taxed since the poll tax was abolished in 1991.
That is profoundly unfair on benefit claimants, in work and unemployment, I have been working with for the past 25 years.
By refusing to pay my council tax I have put myself on the receiving end of the council tax enforcement procedures. I hope to put a spotlight on this penal civil process which catapults decent people into food banks and some times into prison.
Lord Lucas (Chair of the Enforcement Law Reform Group comprising representatives from Creditors, Local Authorities, Advice Sector and the Bailiff Compaines on which I served up to April 2013) said
shortly after Hansard 24 July 2012 : shortly after Column GC277)
"About 3 million liability orders are issued in respect of council tax each year. Councils charge an average of about £100 a time for this, which is £300 million a year that councils are charging for liability orders. This charge is supposed to be based on the cost to councils of getting the liability orders and the magistrates’ court orders together. It is totally out of proportion to that cost. It is high time that the Government did a little audit to check out what one or two councils are charging and to see whether those costs are real".
Baroness Hanham, (Hansard 24 July 2012 : just before Column GC284) Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government stated, in answer to a point raised by Lord Lucas,
"Under the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, bailiffs can be used to recover unpaid council tax—that is, levy distress—only where a magistrates’ court has made a liability order. That was the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas. The local authority is allowed to apply for only reasonable costs, and those are capped at £70. There will be further costs only after distress from the bailiffs is levied."
Obviously there is a substantial difference between the Ministers reasonable court costs capped at £70 and Haringey's £125. The £70 cap only applies to Wales but it remains relevant because the procedures in England are the same.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road,
London N17 0BF
also at www.z2k.org
also at www.prohousingalliance.com
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