The most unpleasant aspect of council tax enforcement is use by councils of bailiffs to intimidate impoverished & vulnerable late & non payers to paying the extortionate fees first then the tax

17 November 2017

The motivation to challenge the imposition and enforcement of the council tax on the poorest, vulnerable and unemployed UK residents has been furiously energised by the revelations of the Paradise Papers that the wealthy park their incomes tax free overseas.

Over the five years since the April 2013 Haringey will have extracted £33 million from social security incomes . Last year Haringey collected £5.8 million or 84% of the council tax due from 27,947 households who were experiencing the roll out of the Universal Credit. The Council failed to collect £1.1 million despite  draconian enforcement.

I have refused to pay my council tax since April 2013 for a number of reasons. 

First it is very unfair and deeply regressive to tax £73.10 Jobseeker’s Allowance which is rolling out to become £317 a month Universal Credit, and then enforce the tax by adding court costs and bailiffs fees.

Second, The Institute of health equity has published decades of undeniable research showing that low income and debt damage mental and physical health, risk low birth- weight, with intergenerational health consequences for families, and shorten lives.

Thirdly the council is now taxing social security incomes which have been shredded by central government over the 10 years since the 2007 crash.  Incomes are too often stopped for one month or three months by a benefit sanction or for weeks as at a time by a zero hours contract and the Universal Credit.

Fourthly by putting myself on the receiving end of the enforcement process I can challenge and report on the enforcement of this regressive and damaging tax against the poorest and most vulnerable people in the London Borough of Haringey knowing that the same draconian procedures are undertaken by 264 councils taxing social security incomes in England.  

The motivation to challenge the imposition and enforcement of the council tax on the poorest and most vulnerable UK residents has been vastly energised by the revelations of the Paradise Papers that the wealthy park their incomes overseas tax free.

No such freedom in Haringey.  So far; 

Haringey Council’s 2012 consultation about imposing 20% of the council tax on working age social security incomes was found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court, the refusal of

The magistrates and the council's refusal to supply for a breakdown of the court costs, when around 20,000 cases a year of late and non payers are taken to the magistrates court, was found unlawful by the High Court. 

My objection to the court costs sent to the external auditor has forced the council to reduce the court costs. Again in 2017 the court costs were inaccurate when presented to the magistrates’ court by the council and in a freedom of Information answer.

But the most unpleasant aspect of council tax enforcement is the use by the council of the bailiffs to intimidate impoverished and vulnerable late and non payers into paying their exrottianet fees first and then the tax.  The incomes of the foxy bailiff’s prey are all too often stopped by the benefit sanction for one month or three months, and by zero hours contract or the Universal Credit for several weeks. But the council allows the bailiffs relentlessly to continue enforcement of council tax arrears, which have piled up while late and non-payers have no income. They have to be paid off for months after the end of the stoppages.

The bailiffs are not allowed to break into domestic premises to enforce a civil debt.

Council tax arrears are a civil debt.  The council sent them 11,000 cases of late and non payers last year. The bailiffs add their fees to the council tax arrears and £115 court costs. Their fees are £75 a case as an admin fee which has to be collected from the council tax defaulter, another £235 for any number of visits and then £110 if they call to collect goods for sale to pay off their fees first and then the council tax.  They are private companies responsible to their shareholders. They make arrangements for their fees and council tax arrears to be paid by instalments; fees first. 

The council hands the bailiffs the mobile phone numbers of the late and non payers of the tax. 

The bailiffs then send a series of intimidating bluffs, interspersed with “we are here to help you”, Iin text messages. They are intended to threaten  late and non payers into opening their  their front door. I am refusing to open my door. They have now sent me 25 texts between the 25th September and the 16th November samples of which are shown below.

Please bear in mind the fact that on receiving the first text I wrote to tell them I am refusing to pay the council tax and they ought not to waste their time and money on me but send the case back to the council. That might account for another fact that I have not once had a bailiff knock on my door or seen their removal truck in my street. I imagine they are sitting in a café somewhere or at home firing off nasty text message totally oblivious of the panic with which  the council has required them intimidate the vulnerable and impoverished households of the borough.  

Last year Haringey collected £5.8 million or 84% of the council tax due from 27,947 households who were experiencing the roll out of the Universal Credit. They failed to collect £1.1 million from them despite the draconian enforcement. Over the five years since the 2013 Haringey will have extracted £33 million from social security incomes  

Here is an exposure of the the bailiffs bluffs.

“as per court order”.  They do not have a court order – the council has a print-out with up to a couple of thousand names on it signed by a Magistrate granting the council up to a couple of thousand liability orders and adding £115 court costs. The liability order gives the council the power to send out the bailiffs

“removal truck booked”.  There is no point in booking the removal truck until a late and non payer has opened the front door and let in the bailiffs. They then earmark goods to be collected and taken to the auctions to pay the debt. It’s called “taking control of goods”.  Once they have done that they can break into collect those goods. Some families do not have the income or the goods to cover the tax and the bailiffs’ fees. At that point the bailiffs ought to return the case to the council for reconsideration but they sometimes cut their losses by taking insufficient goods to pay a proportion of the fees but none of the tax. Last year the council collected  

“further charges will be added unless you contact us”. Their already high fees are settled by the Ministry of Justice and they cannot add any more.

“return home now if you wish to be present when goods are removed” – I received this message five times and when one of them arrived I was at home.  

Six of the most intimidating text messages have been sent after 8pm. I can imagine a single mother alone with her children who knows nothing of the procedures I have described suffering from sleep deprivation after the receipt of only one of them  

This is a sample the text messages 25 text messages I have received so far

25th September 15.32
ENFORCEMENT AGENT due to attend & take control of GOODS. Call NEWLYN on 07421324529 to STOP

9th October 2017 16.51 
You IGNORED our Removal Notice the REMOVAL UNIT is operating in N17 0AX. Call NEWLYN NOW on 01604633001 to arrange. Ref: 3756142

9th October 2017 19.57 
You failed to respond. REMOVAL TRUCK BOOKED as per COURT ORDER to TAKE CONTROL OF GOODS to AVOID ACTION CALL NEWLYN 01604 633001 QUOTING REF: 3756142

11th October 
You failed to respond. REMOVAL TRUCK BOOKED as per COURT ORDER to TAKE CONTROL OF GOODS to AVOID ACTION CALL NEWLYN 01604 633001 QUOTING REF: 3756142

12OCTOBER 20.26 
OPERATING IN N17 0AX . FINAL WARNING. NEWLYN ENFORCEMENT AGENT ATTENDING WITHIN 48 HOURS TO REMOVE GOODS. CALL 01604633001 IMMEDIATELY. REF: 3756142

16th October 12.08
REMOVAL TRUCK BOOKED TODAY AT 4PM as per COURT ORDER to TAKE CONTROL OF GOODS, to AVOID ACTION CALL 07813532450 Quoting REF 3756142

16th October 16,27 
RETURN HOME NOW! Newlyn removal truck en route to REMOVE YOUR GOODS. Call MR THOMAS NOW on 07813532450 quoting ref 3756142 to avoid this. 3756142

18 OCTOBER 11.59 
NEWLYN REMOVAL TEAM ARE DUE TO ATTEND TODAY TO TAKE CONTROL OF GOODS, TO AVOID ACTION CALL 07813532450 QUOTING REF $(ROWID) 3756142

19 October 11.56 
REMOVAL TRUCK RE-SCHEDULED TO ATTEND IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS, CALL MR THOMAS 07813532450 TO PREVENT REMOVAL OF GOODS AS PER COURT ORDER QUOTING REF 3756142


19 October 16,27 
RETURN HOME NOW! Newlyn removal truck en route to REMOVE YOUR GOODS. Call MR THOMAS NOW on 07813532450 quoting ref 3756142 to avoid this. 3756142


23rd October 20.24
You failed to respond. REMOVAL TRUCK BOOKED as per COURT ORDER to TAKE CONTROL OF GOODS to AVOID ACTION CALL NEWLYN 01604 633001 QUOTING REF: 3756142

 

25th October 2017

FURTHER CHARGES WILL BE ADDED UNLESS YOU CONTACT US TODAY TO PREVENT REMOVAL OF YOUR GOODS. CONTACT NEWLYN IMMEDIATELY TO STOP THIS ACTION 01604 633001 QUOTING REF: 3756142

 

 


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