​There is a profound public interest in the council and the magistrates ceasing to impose mental and physical ill health on the poorest tenants by enforcing an unpayable tax

4 July 2017
To BDO LLP, 
55 Baker Street 
London W1U 7EU
 

OBJECTION TO THE ACCOUNTS OF HARINGEY COUNCIL ENDED 31ST MARCH 2017. 

There is a profound public interest in the council and the magistrates ceasing to impose mental and physical ill health on the poorest tenants by enforcing an unpayable tax against grossly inadequate incomes and failing to collect over £2million every year.  
 
Relevant information provided by Haringey Council is attached. 
 
I am asking you to audit the Haringey's attached council tax summons and liability order costs calculation  for 2017/18 and that you issue a report in the public interest or apply for a declaration that, the accounts is contrary to law (under section 27 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014).
 
In particular I ask you to note; 
  1. That the last time cost calculations were formally and publicly submitted to the Magistrates for approval was on the 12th August 2016. 
  2. They were the costs used in 2015/16 but from the previous year. 
  3. They calculated the level of costs per-head for 2015/16 summons using the number summons issued the previous year 2014/15. 
  4. Similarly they calculated the cost per-head for 2015/16 liability orders using the number of liability orders issued the previous year 2014/15
  5. However for the 2017/18 calculations they use the 2015/16 numbers of summons - 19,855 and liability orders 17,469.  - two years earlier
  6. But the number of summons the previous year 2016/17 was 27,270 making the cost of each summons £94 rather than the £129 claimed and less than the £102 charged. 
  7. I do not understand the liability order costs because the number of them issued  I have been sent  for 2015/16 and 2017/18 are identical at 17,469. 
Furthermore I ask you to consider whether it is a good use of council tax payers money persistently to enforce the 20% of the council tax against low income benefit claimants who cannot afford the tax, let alone the bailiffs fees incurred by 11,492 residents, many of them vulnerable, in 2016/17. At the end of every year council officials expensive time has been taken up fruitlessly failing to collect at least £2 million of the tax.
 
Camden and Westminster Councils have already exempted the worst off council tax payers leving them more  time to chase the people who can pay.
 
A comprehensive brief on the total inadequacy of JSA & Standard Allowance, £73.10 a week & £317 a month can be found here. Increases in these incomes have been frozen by central government since 2011 while rent, living costs and council tax has been increased by local government.  There are public health consequences to enforcing the tax, plus costs and bailiffs fees, against low incomes which ought to be taken into account by Haringey Council and yourselves. Please see the relevant blogs below. 
 
It remains our view the 50% of overheads ought not to be charged against late and non payers, most of whom are in considerable hardship, but shared equally among all council tax payers. Overheads are standing costs not increased by the council tax enforcement. 
 
The Supreme Court Commented on Haringey's council tax support scheme as follows.  "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". See paragraphs 22 and 29. 
 
Five years later the hardship now is worse than ever. 
 
I understand BDO LLP is authorised and regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales ("ICAEW") under registration number C001055835. .May I remind you of the ICEAW code of ethics. "ICAEW members are expected to demonstrate the highest standards of professional conduct and to take into consideration the public interest. Ethical behaviour plays a vital role in ensuring public trust in financial reporting and business practices and upholding the reputation of the accountancy profession". 
 
There is a profound public interest in Haringey  council and the Highbury magistrates ceasing to impose mental and physical ill health on the poorest tenants by enforcing an unpayable tax against grossly inadequate incomes and failing to collect over £2 million every year.  
 

Nine blogs on health equality 

Dr Angela Donkin Institute of Health Equity, Profs Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson Equality Trust, Maddy Power University of York, Carl Walker University of Brighton 

 

 


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