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Reverend Paul Nicolson's legal challenge to enforcement of council tax in Haringey PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 December 2013

Chair and founder of Zacchaeus 2000 trust,  the Reverend Paul Nicholson, reports on his legal challenge to Haringey Magistrates' and Haringey Council’s enforcement of council tax.

The courts and the councils should make sure they observe the law when imposing the punitive measures of enforcement of council tax against the lowest incomes already suffering caps and cuts. A friendly lawyer helped me draft the letter clarifying my application to the Haringey magistrates to state a case which follows this summary on the TAP website. . <>

As you know I am refusing to pay my council tax even though I can afford it.  That means I am on the receiving end of the enforcement procedures. I have been concerned about careless enforcement by courts and councils against poverty incomes since the Poll Tax in the 1990s, and then the Council Tax.

Now benefit claimants are being charged council tax on top of the cuts and caps to their benefits and the escalating prices of food, utilities and other necessities. Enforcement adds further unmanageable debts. Many are also suffering rent arrears due to the housing benefit caps.

There are three problems.

The Haringey magistrates authorise the enforcement by Haringey Council of £125 cost per liability order on top of the arrears.  How did the magistrates lawfully conclude that the costs incurred amounted to £125 per liability order?

The magistrates acted unlawfully by failing to take steps to issue stamped and sealed liability orders against the debtors summonsed to the proceedings on 2 August 2013.

The liability order issued to me (uniquely because I asked for it) is neither stamped nor sealed. I have therefore written to the council and asked them to note that as the liability order issued to me is not stamped or sealed I do not consider it constitutes valid authority to enforce.

The context is as follows.

The magistrates grant 1000s of applications from councils for liability orders in a few minutes at one sitting.

They act like blind malignant Harry Potters giving huge powers of enforcement with the wave of the hand to the councils against vulnerable and impoverished people, receiving the lowest income in work and unemployment, with no attempt to examine their dire circumstances.

If a liability order is granted the council is able to take one or more of the following actions:

Instruct bailiffs to take your goods and sell them to settle your debt – this can include your car.
You will be liable to pay the bailiffs costs which could substantially increase the debt.
Instruct your employer to deduct payments from your salary or wages.
Deduct money straight from your jobseekers allowance or income support.
Make you bankrupt.
Make a charging order against your home.
Have you committed to prison”.

These are seriously heavy sanctions against the lowest incomes both in work and unemployment.

The courts and the councils should ensure that they observe the law when imposing the punitive measures of enforcement of council tax against the lowest incomes already suffering caps and cuts.  The long term aim must be to abolish council  tax and business rates in favour of land value tax.


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