COUNCILS AND MAGISTRATES’ COURTS CHARGE LONDONERS OVER £30 MILLION A YEAR BY ISSUING LIABILITY ORDERS FOR COUNCIL TAX ARREARS.

1 August 2013

Please see Ros Wynne Jones in her Daily Mirror Real Britain column http:// http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/reverend-paul-nicolson-ready-go-2106116

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COUNCILS AND MAGISTRATES’ COURTS CHARGE LONDONERS OVER £30 MILLION A YEAR BY ISSUING LIABILITY ORDERS FOR COUNCIL TAX ARREARS.

DEBTORS ARE CHARGED £125 EACH IN THE BOROUGH OF HARINGEY. THEY COST £3 TO PRODUCE.

Rev. Paul Nicolson is refusing to pay the council tax. He will
challenge Haringey Council and the magistrates’ court procedures for granting liability orders to councils at 9.30 am on Friday 2 August at The Magistrates Court, Lordship Lane, Tottenham, N17 6RT

He is refusing to pay the tax in sympathy and solidarity with those
benefit claimants in Haringey who are made to pay 20% of it as part of his efforts to publicise their very severe and increasing financial hardship.

London Councils and magistrates Courts are charging over £30 million a year for liability orders on top of having to find 8.5% to 20% of the council tax, and the coalition’s caps and cuts.

A liability order adds £125 to the council tax arrears in the Borough
of Haringey. The Magistrates have issued 5835 to the council since
April 1st 2013; an increase of 1555 compared to the same period last year.

The demands for £125 by the council have not been set according to regulations.

This is on top of the bedroom tax which adds around £60 a week or the £500 overall benefit cap which can take £60 - £200 a week out of children's benefits [full stop].

For the average increase of 86 pence a week on Band D the 100% council tax benefit could have been retained by Haringey Council from April this year.

Mr Nicolson has sent a letter raising the issues to the Court and to
Cllr Joe Goldberg, Head of Finance at Haringey Council challenging the court processes for granting liability orders to councils.

His appearance in court will be accompanied by a demonstration outside the Magistrates Court house, from 09.30 – 10.30am on Friday 2nd August.

“The coalition and the local authorities are creating unmanageable
rent and council tax arrears, and other debts, then adding £125 costs, and enforcing the lot against very inadequate, capped and diminishing incomes. The result is food and fuel poverty. They are damaging the mental and physical health of individuals, families and the education of their children.

Civil disobedience is morally defensible when the laws being
highlighted are morally indefensible. “ Said the Rev Paul Nicolson

In the court, Mr Nicolson plans to challenge the court’s procedure for issuing liability orders on three grounds:

Firstly, the court costs of £125 each are disproportionately high when a PQ revealed that the cost the council is £3 each[1]. For explanation of these high costs (which are double those in some other UK Boroughs, and which yield around £1m profit for each London Borough per annum, according to FOI disclosures, see Appendix 1[2].

Secondly, the high cost exacerbates the financial hardship of benefit claimants in Haringey already suffering under the £500 benefit cap, which has already led Haringey families to begin paying rent out of child benefit payments due to cuts in housing benefit imposed by the cap and the bedroom tax, on top of the 1% per annum cap on benefit increases, which imposes a real annual reduction while inflation stands at 2.7 RPI per annum.

I have met;

a. A disabled woman with the severest form of epilepsy should
have been exempt from the bedroom tax but was put though three months of stress until the council applied the rules properly.

b. A single mother with four children has to find £69 a week rent out of already inadequate children’s benefit incomes needed for food, utilities and all the other necessities; because her own benefit is only £71.70 a week. She was given the DHP for 12 weeks and worries about what happens then. Private landlords are evicting because they can get higher rents in a chaotic London housing market in short supply[3].

3. Thirdly, liability orders are neither drawn up nor stamped or
sealed by the Magistrates Court, as in all other civil judgments. This is a gap in the civil law first noted by the Court of Appeal in
2005[4], and is probably contrary to the European law requirement that judgements have to be certain. It leaves the system wide open to abuse.

For the average increase of 86 pence a week on Band D the 100% council tax benefit could have been retained by Haringey Council.

Civil disobedience is morally defensible when the laws being
highlighted are morally indefensible.

Note for editors. The Rev Paul Nicolson founded the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust in 1997 http://www.z2k.org , a Christian Trust dedicated to working with debtors impoverished by the benefit system, while working as a parish priest in, Turville, Buckinghamshire where he had accepted the filming of the Vicar of Dibley in the Parish Church.

Earlier this year he withdrew from the Chair of the Trust to run
Taxpayers Against Poverty, taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk, which he founded in February 2012 with a letter to the Guardian deploring thenotion that housing benefit is unfair to tax payers.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/16/taxpayers-alliance-social-justice

“I am glad my taxation is used to enable my fellow citizens, both in
and out of work, to buy enough food, clothes, fuel, transport and
other necessities, to pay council tax and the rent of secure homes,
when they have no other means to do so”
________________________________

[1] A Parliamentary answer given by Bridget Prentice, Justice
Secretary, in February 2009 established that the cost of issuing a
summons in a council tax case was £3.00.

[2] A FOI Act request to 31 London authorities from the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust in 2011 found that they were earning around £1 million a year each from summonsing. That is upward of £30 million per annum which may be being unlawfully demanded.

[3] In the Borough of Haringey there are 740 families hit by the £500 overall benefit cap; 80% of them are single mothers.

[4] R(on the application of Mathialagan) v Southwark London Borough Council and Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court’ [2004] EWCA Civ 1689, The Times 21 December 2004 reported at [2005] RA 43 (Court of Appeal)

Appendix.

Comparative analysis of £125 charge for liability order.

Haringey Council has issued 5,835 summonses for liability order
hearings costing their constituents £125 each, or a total of £729,375, between the 1st April and the 1st July 2013, an increase of 1555 on the same period in 2012 or a total of £194,276.

Accordingly;
(1) There is no basis for the costs spelled out in legislation and
(2) The power to fix costs, and who in law is entitled to do this, is unclear
(3) Haringey's costs are not consistent with those in other Boroughs.

The current costs in the County of Cornwall are;

Liability Order              Court Summons

£40                 £60

The following information was provided by the Zacchaeus 2000 (Z2K) Trust.

2012/13                                            Liability Order          Court Summons

Canterbury City Council                               £50                  £50
London Borough of Brent                             £30                  £90
Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council          £42                   £42
London Borough of Bromley                      £20                   £75
Powys County Council                                   £50                  £10
Braintree District Council                             £30                  £65
Sheffield City Council                                      £28                   £46
Wolverhampton City Council                      £40                   £36
Dover District Council                                     £50                  £50
Rother District Council                                    £20                  £80

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road,
Tottenham,
London N17 0BF
0208 3765455
07961 177889
http://www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk


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