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Reverend Paul Nicolson asks Haringey magistrates to justify liability order decisions in High Court
A vicar has asked magistrates to justify their decisions to force thousands of benefit claimants to pay council tax they may not be able to afford.
Reverend Paul Nicolson, who is refusing to pay his council tax in protest against changes to welfare, has written to Haringey Magistrates Court after it granted a liability order against him earlier this month.
In his letter he wrote that Haringey Borough Council has been granted more than 17,200 liability orders in the last year - allowing the authority to collect £2.1million from some of its poorest citizens.
The orders allow councils to take measures to reclaim money they are owed - such as unpaid council tax.
These can include instructing bailiffs to repossess goods to settle the debt or instructing employers to deduct payments from wages.
Last week the Money Advice Trust revealed that the council had used bailiffs 9,048 times in the last year.
Rev Nicolson claims the added stress and worry this causes to people who have already suffered from the benefits cap and changes to council tax benefit is only making their situation worse.
He said: “The situation is quite awful especially as it affects so many of the poorest people in the borough.
“These people are already sick with stress and worry because they have had their benefits reduced because of the benefits cap put in place by the government.”
A spokesman for the council defended the number of times it has used bailiffs and said they were only ever used as a last resort and “once all other options have been exhausted”.
During his court hearing on August 2, Rev Nicolson asked magistrates to explain how they arrived at the £125 figure charged to people who have a liability order taken out against them.
The magistrates replied that it had been something that had been agreed between the council and the court and the council and was consistent with other London borough.
However in the letter to the magistrates’ court he claims the answer was either “very unsatisfactory or non-existent".
The 80-year-old told the Haringey Independent that he is waiting for a response from the court before going on to appeal the liability order against him at the High Court.
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