The Inside Out programme on Council Tax debt will be on BBC One on Monday at 7.30. TAP rejects taxation by local authorities of benefits shredded by national government. Will watch with interest.

12 January 2018

The Inside Out programme on Council Tax debt will be on BBC One on Monday at 7.30.

TAP rejects taxation by local authorities of benefits shredded by national government since 2010. Will watch with interest. 

The BBC Inside Out programme asked TAP for help finding people willing talk about their experience of the enforcement of council tax. Thanks are due from all of us to Michelle Mosely and Franklin Thomas who responded and will feature on the programme. They have had experience of Hackney and Haringey Council's enforcement. The BBC will acknowledge TAP's advice and assistance at the end of the progamme.  

Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP) initiated  the case of Moseley v Haringey in a telephone conversation with Ian Wise QC and Alex Rook, Solicitor,  Solictor. Everyone should be grateful for Michelle taking on much needed legal aid. My concerns about the inadequacy of Haringey's consultation are cited in the Supreme Court's judgement (see below). In that judgement the Supreme Court settled the rules for national and local government consultation in England and Wales. 
Also, thanks to the legal skills of Helen Mountfield QC and Eloise Le Santo, Barrister, acting probono, I won for TAP  the case of Nicolson v Haringey on Haringey. The council and the magistrates had refused to show me the breakdown of their costs. That judgement requires all local authorities and magistrates in England and Wales to provide a breakdown of the costs charged by the councils for summons and liability orders of which there were 3.5 million last year. On seeing the breakdown we challenged the level of the costs though Haringey's external auditor. They were then reduced. 
These are two landmark cases initiated for Taxpayers Against Poverty.
R (on the application of Moseley (insubstitution of Stirling Deceased)) (AP) (Appellant) v London Borough ofHaringey (Respondent)

This case was initiated by Taxpayers Against Poverty. Haringey Councils 2012 consultation was declared unlawful

Quotations from the Supreme Court Judgment.

22. In response to its consultation exercise Haringey received 1251 completed questionnaires and 36 letters and emails. Of those who completed the questionnaire, 43% agreed or strongly agreed with the first question and 44% disagreed or strongly disagreed with it. ………One of the 36 letters and emails was an email sent to Haringey by The Reverend Paul Nicolson, a prominent anti-poverty campaigner, on 29 October 2012. He wrote:

“I write to oppose your proposals on the grounds that the 25,560 households who now pay no council tax will not be able to pay 20%, or around £300 pa, from April 2013…benefits are paid… to our poorest fellow citizens to provide the necessities of life; they are already inadequate…”

On 6 November 2012 Haringey responded:

“We have asked for comments around protecting groups in addition to Pensioners, however protecting additional groups will have an impact on the remaining recipients who will have to pay a higher amount to cover the shortfall. Your email below is unclear as to which group you are suggesting we protect and how we then make up the shortfall.”

In his response dated 7 November 2012 The Rev. Nicolson observed: “I am aware that central government has cut its council tax benefit grant to… Haringey and all other councils by 10%. Other councils are absorbing the cut and continuing [to] implement the current CT benefit scheme. Why cannot Haringey do the same? There is no consultation taking place about that central issue.”

On 10 December 2012, following the end of the consultation, The Rev. Nicolson wrote a letter of protest to the Leader of Haringey Council, which ended as follows: “I am shocked that no alternative to hitting the fragile incomes of  the  poorest  residents of Haringey … was included in the recent consultation."

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.

Fairness demanded that in the consultation document brief reference should be made to other ways of absorbing the shortfall and to the reasons why (unlike 58% of local authorities in England: see para 15 above) Haringey had concluded that they were unacceptable.

The protest of The Rev. Nicolson in his letter dated 10 December 2012 was well-directed.”