Summoned to court for civil disobedience of laws damaging the health and wellbeing of tenants​ who claim benefits

1 June 2016

Summoned to court for civil disobedience of laws damaging the health and wellbeing of tenants who claim benefits in Haringey

I have been summoned to the Tottenham Magistrates Court for non-payment of council tax to the London Borough of Haringey on Wednesday 15th June at 10 am. I will be attending the court.

It would be great if there could be a supporting demo at the same time on that day for photos and statements.

After thirty years working with people who have struggled to survive in the UK benefit system I cannot stand by without bellowing from the roof tops that, in that time, the struggle to survive in the UK has never been more damaging than it is now.

I am refusing to pay the council tax as an act of Civil disobedience because laws passed by national and local government are damaging the health and well being of tenants who claim benefits in Haringey.

The incidence of low birth-weight in Haringey, with the risk of life time ill health for the babies, is among the highest in Europe (see note below); in some wards in Tottenham the expectation of life is seventeen years shorter at 71 years than in Kensington and Chelsea at 88 years.

In report after national report, year after year, robust research has not only drawn attention of governments to the impact of inequality on health but also impact of low incomes and debt on a healthy diet, fuel poverty, mental and physical health.

How much worse is the impact on health of the enforcement of rent and council tax arrears against tenants whose income is stopped by a benefit sanction for one month, three months or three years without a fair trial by the jobcentre.

There is nothing whatever just about the UK housing market, the council tax or benefit sanctions.

I started refusing to pay council tax in April 2013 when central government began demanding rent from adult JSA and children's benefits by cutting housing benefit twice, with the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, while rents escalate in the chaotic London housing market.

At the same time Haringey council added to the misery by taxing single adult JSA of £73.10 week and other benefits, while adding enforcement costs of £125 to the arrears of 20,000 residents, 12,000 of whom had to pay at least a further £75 to the bailiffs, who charge another £235 if they make a visit.

I now owe £2831.42 in solidarity with benefit claimants forced into damaging debt by central and local government.

When I asked Grant Thornton, Haringey's auditor's, to check that Haringey's £125 enforcement costs, charged to late and non payers of council tax, were lawful, I also drew their attention to the plight of vulnerable benefit claimants since April 2013.

I had specifically drawn Grant Thornton’s attention on the 3rd May 2015 to the work of the Government Office for Science and the Royal College of Psychiatrists showing that debt is linked to mental health problems. Grant Thornton replied on the 5th May 2015;

“We have no remit over related public sector bodies nor to opine on the impact of this policy on the well-being of those required to pay council tax”.

I am now trying to persuade the Civil Court of Appeal to hear my case that Grant Thornton should have had regard to vulnerable situations, including the disabled, pregnant women and the mentally ill, when auditing the court costs. They are imposed in bulk 1000s at a time by the Magistrates waving their hand over a print out. (see TAP website)

I am strongly opposed by the legal teams of Haringey Council and Grant Thornton, when they should be defending their vulnerable constituents with me.

Rev Paul Nicolson


  1. According to the 2011 census 58% of households in Haringey rent their homes, about 15,000 of which are council tenants, 47%in London and 33% in England.
  2. The auditing of local authority accounts was privatised in 2012. Grant Thornton UK is the British member firm of Grant Thornton International, the sixth largest accounting network in the world by combined fee income. Grant Thornton LLP is the sixth largest U.S. accounting and advisory organization.
  3. Haringey had among the highest rates of low birth weight in Europe between 2007 and 2009 in the following wards;

Tottenham Green          12.5%, of live births
St Ann’s                            9.4%
Haringay                          11.62%

The average for Haringey is 7.63%, England 7.53% and the OECD in 2008 6.4% with Iceland lowest at 3.8% and Turkey highest at 11%.

Professor Michael Crawford of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition has said that Low birth weight associated with foetal growth restriction is the strongest predictor of poor learning ability, school performance, behavioural disorders and crime. In 2011, the proportion of births classified as a low birth weight birth was 8.1% in Haringey compared to 7.4% in England and 8.0% in London. The percentage of low birth weight has iincreased from 7.4% in 2010.

I have tried to persuade the government to measure the cumulative impact on health of cuts, caps and council tax in amendments tabled by Lord Ramsbotham and Baroness Meacher in Welfare Reform Acts passed in 2010, 2012 and 2016. I thought the 2016 amendment would be passed by Peers on the 25th January 2016, but Labour Peers abstained.

Rev Paul Nicolson