Non-violent civil disobedience Income & debt damage health if too little money to heat a home or buy a healthy diet.

29 August 2017
To Labour Councillors of the London Borough of Haringey.

NON-VIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE 

I am refusing to pay my council tax for three sets of reasons;
  • first the damage in hunger and homelessness it is doing to the health of the benefit claimants you represent
  • second to help my fellow residents who have never tangled with the benefit system to understand how serious the poverty has become in Haringey which damages health and well-being
  • third the failure of the council to consult all the residents of Haringey about either the formation of the Haringey Development Vehicle or handing it £2bn land and assets. I do not trust the majority of councilors to use my council tax in the interests of all the residents of Haringey. The price of council tax includes democratic consultation on such a vital and major decision by the council. 

LOW INCOME DEBT AND ILL HEALTH.

Income can impact on health in different ways.  Income impacts on health directly, for instance, because of insufficient money to heat your home or buy a healthy balanced diet. Cold homes increase rates of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, excess winter deaths and mental illness.  Inadequate diets increase the risk of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Low income, and particularly debt or insufficient income also impact on health indirectly through increased stress, depression and anxiety, and sub optimal coping behaviours – such as increased rates of smoking and drinking.

Dr Angela Donkin, Institute of Health Equity

COUNCIL TAX

My objective has not changed since 2012. It is to persuade you to return to 100% council tax benefit for all working aged unemployed, as has already been done in Camden. Since 2012 I have opposed the taxation by the council of the low working age benefit incomes. The attached analysis was presented to the council by your officials in July 2012. It left out the bedroom tax but it is otherwise excellent. You will be aware that the benefit incomes you are now taxing were inadequate in 2012. They are now even more inadequate in 2017 due to the freeze on increases imposed by central government since 2011 and the increases in the cost of living. Your increase in council tax and the increases in rents now charged against benefits, due to the bedroom tax the, the benefit cap and local housing allowance, have further decreased the income needed for food, water, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities. 
 
You send in the bailiffs, adding exorbitant court costs and bailiffs fees, against households with no income due to zero hours contracts, benefit sanctions and the transfer to Universal Credit. 
 
There were 6000 unemployed single adults in 2012, according to the attachment, due to have their benefit, now £73.10*, taxed by the council in April 2013. Many were also forced to pay rent out of that £73.10 due to the bedroom tax.   
 
Civil Disobedience seems well justified in the light of both the current evidence of these oppressive circumstances and in the light of these observations by your officials and the Supreme Court.    
 
Stuart Young, The Assistant Chief Executive, Haringey Council stated in 2012; "“Needless to say it is my belief that this represents one of the most appalling policies of the government and it is not insignificant that the unemployed will now be facing the prospect of having to pay 20 local taxation levels, which they last were subjected to paying under the Poll Tax. This is likely to amount to an average additional burden of £5pw, which when put alongside cuts to Working Families Tax Credit, changes to Housing Benefits, and the introduction of Universal Credit is, in my view, likely to have a disastrous impact on the levels of child poverty.” 
 
The Supreme Court stated in 2014 Para 24 of their decision in Mosely v Haringey; 29. Those whom Haringey was primarily consulting were the most economically disadvantaged of its residents. Their income was already at a basic level and the effect of Haringey’s proposed scheme would be to reduce it even below that level and thus in all likelihood to cause real hardship, while sparing its more prosperous residents from making any contribution to the shortfall in government funding. 

Since deciding to tax working age benefit incomes in 2012 the council administration of council tax has repeatedly been found wanting;

​2014 - you ​lost Moseley v Haringey ​ -  Supreme Court - your consultation was unlawful ​​
 
2015 - you lost ​lost Nicolson v Haringey -  - High Court - your refusal to provide breakdown of court costs was unlawful​

​2016 - you were ​-  forced  to reduce ​ your  ​court costs by £13 for a summons and £10 for a liability order - ​ - External Auditor - over charging by those small amounts matters when the food bank looms​

​2016 - ​you were  required to pay costs of £12,000 in Nicolson v Grant Thornton ​ - High Court ​-  both the council and the auditor had failed to consider the public interest  orr the vulnerable circumstances of the benefit claimants being taxed during the audit or ​when court costs ​ overcharging was reported to the magistrates.

2017 - on the 13th July you gave the magistrate  a robust​  assurance that the costs were correctly calculated ​ and informed him that my claim that they were inaccurate was wrong. I have now heard from the external auditor ​ on the 26th July​ . "I have had an initial discussion with the Council’s Revenues Team and it has come to light that the information that you were provided with regarding the number of council tax ​summonses issued in 2016/17 was incorrect.  It is correct that the number issued in 2015/16 was 19,855 but the number issued in 2016/17 was 21,881." 
 
 
​HARINGEY DEVELOPMENT VEHICLE. ​
 
I do not trust the majority of Councillors  to use my council tax in the interests of all the residents of Haringey. 
  1. Since 2013 the tenants of the council have been required to pay council tax. It is ferociously enforced adding court costs and high bailiffs fees. In return their secure affordable council housing has been offered for sale behind their backs in Cannes years before either they or the rest of us had a chance comment on the proposal, and propose alternatives, and before we had a chance to examine the Treasury Green Book Economic Option Appraisals or contribute to them.
  2. 10s of 1000s of pounds of council tax have been spent by Councillors on trips to the South of France. If developers are to keen to invest in Haringey why could they not visit the council in Wood Green... 
  3. Neither I nor any other resident of Haringey, who is not a tenant of the council, was consulted about whether we approved of Councillors setting up the HDV and handing it £2bn of council tax payers assets and land.
  4. Lend Lease, Councillors preferred bidder, has had to pay $56 million in the USA to avoid prosecution for corruption and has a company in the Channel Islands tax-haven. If all residents had been given the choice would we have chosen that company and how do we know our council tax will not end up in the Channel islands.  
  5. The lack of Councillors commitment to council housing results in the destruction of the only truly affordable housing in the UK and parting with the public land that makes it possible. 
  6. The definition of affordable housing as 80% of local average market rents, accepted by Councillors, increases rents while low incomes stagnate. It must be replaced with an income, not housing market, related alternative.  
  7. The ease with which viability assessments can be fixed by developers to give high profits to themselves and land owners by reducing the number of affordable homes has been illustrated by the way Councillors promised 50% affordable housing target, subject to viability, for the HDV  in 2013 and then reduced it to 40% in 2017. That is a scandal in the making. 
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
 
*NB  - Single adult JSA of £73.10 a week equals  £317 per month Universal Credit - it has been reducing in value since 1979
 
Council tax was enforced while this case had no income. 
 

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