Councils & auditors maximise council tax court costs against sick, disabled, hungry & benefit sanctioned residents

5 May 2016

An anonymous person (AP) provided some very helpful information about Haringey Council's council tax court costs in 2013 while I was preparing to take Tottenham Magistrates and The London Borough of Haringey to Judicial Review. They had refused to tell me, or anyone else,  on the 2nd August 2013 how they arrived at the £125 costs they charged when they imposed a council tax liability order.

The Haringey Independent had written about the case AP had posted some very useful comments which was used in my witness statement. I won the case in the High Court.  Mrs Justice Andrews DBE telling the council and the magistrates that their refusal to tell me was "Indefensible" and declaring my liability order unlawful.

I was never able to find the AP. This year I was interviewed by the TV programme  "Windows on the World" .  I broadcast a request for AP to get in touch.

 He just has; he turns out to be Neil Gilliat, who lives in Lincolnshire, and  who has been researching the wide wide variety of ways councils attempt to comply with the Council Tax (Adminstration and Enforcement) 1992 (section 34)

Councils are allowed to charge costs "reasonably incurred" in obtaining a liability order; they have many interpretaions of "reasonably". Haringey and their auditors Grant Thornton, a large international company of accountants who are paid by Haringey to audit the council's accounts, soften thiose strict regulations by  "maximising" their costs, or calling them  "not unresonable" and "broadly reasonable" .  The costs of a liability order the council is allwed by the magistrates may not, in law, be an additional tax or a penalty.

With the support of Grant Thornton Haringey Council have sailed too close to the wind by calculating costs to be near to over the limit without considering the vulnerable circumstances of many of the 20,000 residents who are summoned to court for council tax arrears whose ccircumstances and incomes are already below the minimum needed for healthy living.  The liability orders are awarded the council by the magistrates 1000s at a time in the absence of the late or non paying resident who might be sick, disabled or have no income due to a benefit sanction or have beenrecently evicted due to ever rising rents.

Reverend Paul Nicolson v Grant Thornton Appeal No C1 2016 1096

my answers to Grant Thornton's opposition to my appeal being heard.

That is why I am trying to take my case against the Auditors to the Civil Court of Appeals. Neil Gilliat has kindly provided his research as a witness statement in my case,  with the index below. Click on the heading below if you want to see whether your council is among the councils he has researched with FOI questions or from their websites.  Law is meant to be applied consitently thoughout the UK!!!

The courts costs Magistrates allow 47 local authorites to charge late and non payers of council tax - research by Neil Gilliatt.


Front loading and manipulating composition of summons/liability order costs

  Newham Borough Council (NBC) 3
  Records of previous year’s cost levels 4
  Where majority of costs are incurred 5
  Haringey Borough Council 5
  North East Lincolnshire Council 6
  Wycombe Council 7
  Eastleigh Borough Council 10
  Westminster City Council 13
  West Somerset District Council 18
  Barking and Dagenham Borough Council 20
  Chiltern District Council 20

Adding costs to defendants’ accounts prior to the court hearing the case

  Brent Borough Council 22
  Oxford City Council 24
  Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council 24

Public consultations / budget savings / budget targets

  Great Yarmouth Borough Council 25
  North East Lincolnshire Council 38
  Gateshead Council 41
  Blaby District Council 41
  Nuneaton & Bedworth Council 42
  Dartford Borough Council 43
  Durham County Council 43
  Haringey Borough Council 43
  Canterbury City Council 44
  North East Lincolnshire Council 45
  Hull City Council 45

Accounting inconsistently for interest in respect of recovery

  Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council 46
  Leicester City Council (Leicestershire and Rutland authorities) 47
  Inconsistencies in calculations produced by the four authorities 51

View held that costs in respect of the court application should extend to all expenditure attributable to recovery and enforcement

  Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council 52
  Waltham Forest Borough Council 53
  North East Lincolnshire Council 53

Discriminatory costs based on level of outstanding debt / benefit claimants

  Hull City Council 56

Billing authorities having two-tier system

  Harlow District Council 60
  Nottingham City Council 60
  Rutland County Council 61
  Harrow Borough Council 62

All authorities using the same Court having the same level of costs

  Fareham Borough council 63
  Brentwood Borough council 64

Economies of scale

  Reigate and Banstead Borough Council 65
  Pre and post Welfare Reform 67
  Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council 68
  North East Lincolnshire Council 68
  Peterborough City Council 69
  Kirklees Borough Council 69
  Leeds City Council 69
  Manchester City Council 70
  Nottingham City Council 70

Insufficient staff / time to complete volume of work claimed

  Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council 71
  Luton Borough Council 71
Neighbouring authorities preferring standard levels of costs 74
  Northumberland County Council / North Tyneside Council 74


A focus on North East Lincolnshire Council

  Determining costs imposed before case is heard 77
  Increasing and applying hearing Costs in respect of instituting the summons 78
  Income Generation – Public Consultation on 2011 Budget 79
  Resolve issues caused by IT system failures 83
  Encouraging behaviour (deterrent / penalty) 83
  Breakdown of costs (£1.13m) 84
  Recovery Staff salaries accounted for 87
  Inseparable costs 89
  Composition of Council Tax Summons / liability Order costs 90
  Establishing Costs – A ratio Perspective 91
  Council/court relationship and dereliction of duty 92
  Defective Summons Documents 95
  Disproportionate number of households receiving summonses 95