By Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty
Haringey council urged not to seek costs for CT summons/liability orders until legality and rationality reviewed
I am showing below a letter I sent yesterday 10 October to Haringey council inviting them to cease seeking orders from the magistrates for the costs of council tax summons and liability orders until they have reviewed the legality and rationality of the costs they seek.
It is important to recognise that the note of judgment or draft directions I have attached have not yet been approved by the court and are still in draft. Please be sure that is made clear to any bench of magistrates invited to consider them.
Anyone appearing in Haringey magistrates courts should make sure that the magistrates are aware that the legality, rationality and fairness of the costs orders are in doubt; and that the High Court has said that this is an important point of law for those subject to costs orders and local authorities.
Counsel suggests you say it would be unfair for magistrates to make any orders for costs pending clarification of the law.
With very best wishes,
To the London Borough of Haringey
10th October 2014
Dear Antonios Michael,
Nicolson draft order v2 (2), Nicolson – counsel’s note of judgment, Nicolson skeleton final
I attach a draft note of the judgment of Mr Justice Green granting permission on 7 October 2014 to challenge the decision of the magistrates to award costs against me at the hearing of Haringey Council’s application against me for a council tax liability order on 2 August 2013.
This note has been prepared by my counsel from their notes, and sent to your counsel (Ms Henderson) for her approval/agreement before being submitted to the judge for his approval. I also attach a draft directions order which my counsel have sent yours for agreement and (for your convenience) a copy of the skeleton argument prepared by my counsel for this hearing.
Further to the permission hearing on 7 October 2014, it now appears to me that there must be serious doubts as to the legality of the costs orders sought by the Council in respect of unpaid council tax. The 2004 Council Minute referred to in the skeleton argument lodged on my behalf indicates that costs may have been set by reference to objectives of deterrence and funding other enforcement action. If so, having regard to the decision in Attfield v Barnet LBC  EWHC 2-89 Admin) [2013 PTSR 1559, all such demands for costs are plainly ultra vires regulation 34 of the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations 1992. The costs provisions of these regulations are not set as a revenue raising measure, nor do they confer punitive or deterrent powers. They only permit costs to be sought and awarded by reference to costs actually and reasonably ‘incurred’.
Moreover, it does not appear that the Council either has produced or can produce an adequately reasoned justification for the levels of costs which it claims are incurred in issuing summons and seeking liability orders.
I also remain of the view that costs at the level sought cannot have been ‘reasonably’ or actually incurred....