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Reverend Paul Nicolson claims changes to council tax benefit appeal to taxpayer's 'selfish' side
A vicar who is refusing to pay his council tax in protest against changes to welfare has accused Haringey Borough Council of appealing to the “selfish side” of taxpayers.
The Reverend Paul Nicolson said it was outrageous that the council is forcing benefit claimants, who are already suffering from other benefit cuts, to pay at least £200 in council tax.
He said if the authority raised council tax by just 86p a week on wealthy householders it would cover the cuts and protect the poorest from further hardship.
The 80-year-old, who lives in Tottenham, said: “The council takes a very dim view of the taxpayer and has failed consulted with the public on its decision to make benefit claimants pay council tax.
“People are losing everything – hundreds of cars are being repossessed, people are losing their possession and it’s all affecting their health.
“But I think there are many people in the borough who would be willing to pay more if it meant helping the poorest among us.”
Rev Nicolson said this cut to council tax benefit costs the Haringey’s poorest between three to 11 weeks worth of food.
He added: “If the council explained to the population of Haringey what is happening to the very poorest in our society, there would be an immediate shock.
“The people would be willing to pay that amount but there was no consultation and the current policy only appeals to out selfish side.
“They think we are so overwhelmed with our own problems that we would be unwilling to help others.”
The Reverend said rather than help the poor the authority had got the magistrates to issue 12,105 liability orders for non-payment, up 42 per cent since 2010.
These orders give the council wide-ranging powers of seizure and bankruptcy and even allow the borough to deduct amounts from benefits to pay the bill.
The 80-year-old said: “The situation is absurd. There are plenty of people who would be happy to pay more in order to stop others being hungry.”
In August, a liability order was issued against Rev Nicolson for his refusal to pay council tax which will cost him £125.
He has since challenged the decision ordering him to pay £125 and is considering asking judges the High Court, in central London, to order a judicial review these charges.
A council spokesman said it was the government’s decision to abolish council tax benefit and instruct all local authorities to introduce a new council tax reduction scheme.
She said: “This left Haringey council facing a funding gap of almost £4million and the introduction of Haringey’s Council Tax Reduction scheme followed extensive consultation with residents.
“Direct support from government for council tax reduction schemes reduces year on year.
“It would simply not be sustainable for the council to absorb the cost of the government’s cut, especially when already faced with reductions in government grant of around £144million up to 2016.
“Increasing council tax to cover the shortfall would have meant placing extra burden on thousands of hard-pressed local families. ”
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