The Reverend Paul Nicolson, from Tottenham, vows to continue fight against benefit changes

Haringey Independent: The Rev Paul Nicolson is refusing to pay council tax to protest benefit changes The Rev Paul Nicolson is refusing to pay council tax to protest benefit changes

A vicar who has refused to pay his council tax to protest against changes to benefits has promised to keep fighting in the New Year.

The Reverend Paul Nicolson, of Campbell Road, Tottenham, has challenged Haringey Magistrates Court over its decision to approve thousands of liability orders against people who cannot pay their council tax.

The liability orders give the council authority to take measures to collect the tax.

Mr Nicolson has asked the court to explain how it can justify charging £125 court costs against people who are already in debt – therefore making the problem worse.

He said: “The court has refused to answer my questions and has called my application futile and academic.

“I am incandescent about the merciless and careless way the magistrates and council enforce the council tax.”

The 80-year-old has now asked the High Court to order Haringey Magistrates to explain the reasoning behind the charges.

He added: “Something has to be done to prevent the enforcement of council tax by Haringey magistrates and council against impossibly low incomes.

“Household incomes which are already paying rent have been shredded because of the coalition's caps and cuts, with the addition of £125 court costs and hundreds of bailiffs' fees added to the arrears.”

A council spokesman said the authority has a statutory duty to collect the tax.

She said: “The Government’s decision to abolish council tax benefit and instruct all local authorities to introduce a new council tax reduction scheme left Haringey Council facing a funding gap of almost £4million.

“The introduction of Haringey’s council tax reduction scheme followed extensive consultation with residents.

The spokesman added: “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.”

Rev Nicolson will hold a meeting at North London Community House, in Moorefield Road, for people who have been affected by changes to benefits.

The meeting will start at 7pm on Monday, January 6, and he will be offering free advice about how to cope during difficult financial times.

Comments (9)

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10:35am Wed 1 Jan 14

bz says...

What an idiot.
What an idiot. bz

10:08am Thu 2 Jan 14

Rev Paul Nicolson says...

The council is being economical with the truth when it tells the Haringey Independent that;

“The government’s decision to abolish council tax benefit and instruct all local authorities to introduce a new council tax reduction scheme left Haringey Council facing a funding gap of almost £4million.

“The introduction of Haringey’s Council Tax Reduction scheme followed extensive consultation with residents".

The government did not instruct all local authorities to introduce a new council tax reduction scheme. The point of the Local Government Finance Act 2012 was that each council should decide whether to introduce a new scheme or keep 100% council tax benefit. 268 councils reduced the provision of council tax support in April 2013 (82%) to 80% - 58 councils made no change to the existing council tax benefit arrangements (18%) so keeping the 100% benefit see http://counciltaxsup
port.org/201314/loca
l-schemes/

"Extensive consultation with residents" left out all the residents who did not claim council tax benefit, like myself. We were not given the option of increasing the council tax by an average of 86 pence a week to keep the 100% council tax benefit for benefit claimants, many of whom are now paying rent out of the benefits also paying 20% of the council tax.
The council is being economical with the truth when it tells the Haringey Independent that; “The government’s decision to abolish council tax benefit and instruct all local authorities to introduce a new council tax reduction scheme left Haringey Council facing a funding gap of almost £4million. “The introduction of Haringey’s Council Tax Reduction scheme followed extensive consultation with residents". The government did not instruct all local authorities to introduce a new council tax reduction scheme. The point of the Local Government Finance Act 2012 was that each council should decide whether to introduce a new scheme or keep 100% council tax benefit. 268 councils reduced the provision of council tax support in April 2013 (82%) to 80% - 58 councils made no change to the existing council tax benefit arrangements (18%) so keeping the 100% benefit see http://counciltaxsup port.org/201314/loca l-schemes/ "Extensive consultation with residents" left out all the residents who did not claim council tax benefit, like myself. We were not given the option of increasing the council tax by an average of 86 pence a week to keep the 100% council tax benefit for benefit claimants, many of whom are now paying rent out of the benefits also paying 20% of the council tax. Rev Paul Nicolson

12:44pm Thu 2 Jan 14

Tom_Bola says...

Haringey feature in an article published in a local rag highlighting the effects recent benefit reforms have had on the numbers taken to court over council tax liability which reveals categorically that the council unlawfully set summons costs at a level to deter late payment.

http://chiswick.this
is.co.uk/Council-Tax
-prosecutions-hit-ne
w-high-benefit/story
-19894607-detail/sto
ry.html

".....The approach varies on a theme, for example some authorities view setting the penalty at a level that not only enables funding other services, but serves to influence behaviour as Haringey clarified in its scrutiny panel review of income collection – "The Review Panel found that other councils had obtained agreement to raise Court Costs recharged to non-payers by a significant level. This charge is intended to act as a deterrent to both late and non-payers".

The document referred to above is here (page 36) :

http://www.haringey.
gov.uk/scrutiny_revi
ew_of_income_collect
ion.pdf
Haringey feature in an article published in a local rag highlighting the effects recent benefit reforms have had on the numbers taken to court over council tax liability which reveals categorically that the council unlawfully set summons costs at a level to deter late payment. http://chiswick.this is.co.uk/Council-Tax -prosecutions-hit-ne w-high-benefit/story -19894607-detail/sto ry.html ".....The approach varies on a theme, for example some authorities view setting the penalty at a level that not only enables funding other services, but serves to influence behaviour as Haringey clarified in its scrutiny panel review of income collection – "The Review Panel found that other councils had obtained agreement to raise Court Costs recharged to non-payers by a significant level. This charge is intended to act as a deterrent to both late and non-payers". The document referred to above is here (page 36) : http://www.haringey. gov.uk/scrutiny_revi ew_of_income_collect ion.pdf Tom_Bola

1:07pm Thu 2 Jan 14

Arnylane says...

Haringey Borough Council is more than economical with the truth when it provides evidence to the Magistrates' court of the amount of expenditure it incurs in applying to the court for summonses.

In the Freedom of Information request made to Haringey Borough Council (below), the Magistrates' court has taken the word of the local authority without any evidence of the costs they claim.

https://www.whatdoth
eyknow.com/request/c
ouncil_tax_and_nndr_
summons_and_11

One of its responses shows that they supplied a calculation to justify their costs to the Justice's Clerk using misleading figures to claim that they incurred £166.80 therefore making a loss by passing only £125 of this on to the resident.

The authority stated that the total number of accounts summonsed in 2010-11 was 18,153 whilst data (revenue statistics) supplied by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy indicates that the number of summonses issued in 2010/11 was 23,227 for Council Tax (column 43) and 1,707 for Business rates (column 97) – a total 24,934.

Presenting false figures to the court gave the impression that less income was generated through summonses. I think the Serious Fraud Office would be the organisation best suited to look into this.
Haringey Borough Council is more than economical with the truth when it provides evidence to the Magistrates' court of the amount of expenditure it incurs in applying to the court for summonses. In the Freedom of Information request made to Haringey Borough Council (below), the Magistrates' court has taken the word of the local authority without any evidence of the costs they claim. https://www.whatdoth eyknow.com/request/c ouncil_tax_and_nndr_ summons_and_11 One of its responses shows that they supplied a calculation to justify their costs to the Justice's Clerk using misleading figures to claim that they incurred £166.80 therefore making a loss by passing only £125 of this on to the resident. The authority stated that the total number of accounts summonsed in 2010-11 was 18,153 whilst data (revenue statistics) supplied by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy indicates that the number of summonses issued in 2010/11 was 23,227 for Council Tax (column 43) and 1,707 for Business rates (column 97) – a total 24,934. Presenting false figures to the court gave the impression that less income was generated through summonses. I think the Serious Fraud Office would be the organisation best suited to look into this. Arnylane

1:19pm Thu 2 Jan 14

Arnylane says...

Oh! I forgot this:

FoI request made to Her Majesty’s Courts Service

"Council Tax Liability Order hearing on August 2, 2013 – Enfield and Haringey Magistrates' Court"

https://www.whatdoth
eyknow.com/request/c
ouncil_tax_liability
_order_hear

"I refer to an article published in the Haringey Independent on August 2, 2013, concerning a Council Tax Liability case heard at Enfield and Haringey Magistrates' Court and its decision to award costs of £125 against the defendant challenging the reasonableness of the sum in respect of sending a summons.

In the article it states that the chairman of the bench said:

“We have heard your representation about the issues in general. We can only make a decision on your case individually.

“As you have said, you have the means to pay the costs. We have approved the £125 liability order.”

It stated also:

"The council representative explained the £125 sum was agreed between the court and the council in March 2010 and is consistent with other London Boroughs."

Q. Please supply all recorded information, i.e. calculations etc., supporting Haringey Borough Council's £125 claim for costs (summons costs) which satisfied the Chairman of the bench, Freddy Lawson, that this expenditure had in fact been incurred by Haringey Borough Council in respect of instituting the complaint. I trust this will include details "agreed between the court and the council in March 2010"
Oh! I forgot this: FoI request made to Her Majesty’s Courts Service "Council Tax Liability Order hearing on August 2, 2013 – Enfield and Haringey Magistrates' Court" https://www.whatdoth eyknow.com/request/c ouncil_tax_liability _order_hear "I refer to an article published in the Haringey Independent on August 2, 2013, concerning a Council Tax Liability case heard at Enfield and Haringey Magistrates' Court and its decision to award costs of £125 against the defendant challenging the reasonableness of the sum in respect of sending a summons. In the article it states that the chairman of the bench said: “We have heard your representation about the issues in general. We can only make a decision on your case individually. “As you have said, you have the means to pay the costs. We have approved the £125 liability order.” It stated also: "The council representative explained the £125 sum was agreed between the court and the council in March 2010 and is consistent with other London Boroughs." Q. Please supply all recorded information, i.e. calculations etc., supporting Haringey Borough Council's £125 claim for costs (summons costs) which satisfied the Chairman of the bench, Freddy Lawson, that this expenditure had in fact been incurred by Haringey Borough Council in respect of instituting the complaint. I trust this will include details "agreed between the court and the council in March 2010" Arnylane

2:41pm Thu 2 Jan 14

stiltsy says...

The House of Commons parliamentary questions suggests that with the benefit reforms, the Government was conducting an experiment with people's lives. Further, the Department could scapegoat local authorities for the misery in the event that the experiment went wrong.

Hilary Benn questions the House of Commons (8 July 2013):

"Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab):

....Thousands of people on low incomes are now getting council tax summonses because of the Secretary of State's new poll tax. The Sunday Mirror reports that Peterborough city council, for example, has issued double the number of summonses for non-payment compared with last year. Why does he think that so many people are finding it so difficult to pay the bills that he has imposed on them?

Mr Pickles:
Let me be absolutely clear: these are local authority schemes. In some parts of the country, people on low incomes are not receiving anything additional. These are schemes put together by local authorities, and it is up to local authorities to defend them.

Hilary Benn:
It will not quite do for the Secretary of State to introduce the legislation, cut the money, and then attempt to pass the buck to local authorities up and down the country. The truth is that he is out of touch with what is happening to people on low incomes.

Let me try another question. One of those summonsed is a single parent called Charlotte, who has been asked to pay £141.66. She told the newspaper:

"My priority is finding money to get food for my child."

What choice does the Secretary of State think she should make?

Mr Pickles:
We have placed before local authorities discretionary help to use in such circumstances. The most interesting thing is this: that money has gone unclaimed. This is a local authority scheme, and it is up to the local authority to defend it.”


I think the above shows that our Communities and Local Government Secretary of State could not have cared less and merely scapegoated local authorities for not utilizing the "REDUCED" funding that "HIS DEPARTMENT" had granted councils.
The House of Commons parliamentary questions suggests that with the benefit reforms, the Government was conducting an experiment with people's lives. Further, the Department could scapegoat local authorities for the misery in the event that the experiment went wrong. Hilary Benn questions the House of Commons (8 July 2013): "Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab): ....Thousands of people on low incomes are now getting council tax summonses because of the Secretary of State's new poll tax. The Sunday Mirror reports that Peterborough city council, for example, has issued double the number of summonses for non-payment compared with last year. Why does he think that so many people are finding it so difficult to pay the bills that he has imposed on them? Mr Pickles: Let me be absolutely clear: these are local authority schemes. In some parts of the country, people on low incomes are not receiving anything additional. These are schemes put together by local authorities, and it is up to local authorities to defend them. Hilary Benn: It will not quite do for the Secretary of State to introduce the legislation, cut the money, and then attempt to pass the buck to local authorities up and down the country. The truth is that he is out of touch with what is happening to people on low incomes. Let me try another question. One of those summonsed is a single parent called Charlotte, who has been asked to pay £141.66. She told the newspaper: "My priority is finding money to get food for my child." What choice does the Secretary of State think she should make? Mr Pickles: We have placed before local authorities discretionary help to use in such circumstances. The most interesting thing is this: that money has gone unclaimed. This is a local authority scheme, and it is up to the local authority to defend it.” I think the above shows that our Communities and Local Government Secretary of State could not have cared less and merely scapegoated local authorities for not utilizing the "REDUCED" funding that "HIS DEPARTMENT" had granted councils. stiltsy

3:27pm Thu 2 Jan 14

eekitout says...

Pickle's department reveals what the 10% cut in Council Tax funding was really all about:

This transcript from the House of Lords suggests that the government expected local authorities to meet the council tax benefit cuts by making greater efficiencies such as cutting the estimated £200 million wasted on council tax benefit fraud and error.


"Baroness King of Bow (Labour)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hanham on 29 August (WA 313), what was the £46.5 million underspend in the Transition Fund for local Council Tax Support schemes spent on instead.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Baroness Hanham on 17 July 2012 (WS 35), whether Ministers have plans to repeat the transition funding made available to support the implementation of the local council tax reduction schemes."

ANSWER

"Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

I refer Baroness King of Bow to the response provided by Baroness Hanham on 29 August 2013, Official Report, col. WA313.

The transition grant was a voluntary grant for the first year only of the new system of local council tax support. We have been clear from the outset that it was intended to give councils time to transition to the new localised regime and realise greater efficiencies such as cutting the estimated £200 million wasted on council tax benefit fraud and error."


Another answer from the same Baroness seems like an admission that the estimated £200 million wasted etc., was based on guesswork.

"Baroness King of Bow (Labour)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Baroness Hanham on 15 October 2012 (WS 163), how the figure of

£200 million claimed to have been paid out unnecessarily in 2011 in Council Tax Benefit in 2011–12 was calculated."

ANSWER

"Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

The Department for Work and Pensions publishes an annual statistical report on fraud and error in the benefit system. The 2011-12 edition, which explains the methodology, can be found online at:

https://www.gov.uk/g
overnment/uploads/sy
stem/uploads/attachm
ent_data/file/222892
/fem_1112.pdf

The estimated figure on council tax benefit fraud and error were based on data gathered for comparable measured benefits. As council tax benefit had many similarities to housing benefit, both in terms of entitlement and its administration, the Department for Work and Pensions based their estimate on the results of measurement of housing benefit, adjusted to account for the greater proportion of pensioners in receipt of council tax benefit."
Pickle's department reveals what the 10% cut in Council Tax funding was really all about: This transcript from the House of Lords suggests that the government expected local authorities to meet the council tax benefit cuts by making greater efficiencies such as cutting the estimated £200 million wasted on council tax benefit fraud and error. "Baroness King of Bow (Labour) To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hanham on 29 August (WA 313), what was the £46.5 million underspend in the Transition Fund for local Council Tax Support schemes spent on instead. To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Baroness Hanham on 17 July 2012 (WS 35), whether Ministers have plans to repeat the transition funding made available to support the implementation of the local council tax reduction schemes." ANSWER "Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative) I refer Baroness King of Bow to the response provided by Baroness Hanham on 29 August 2013, Official Report, col. WA313. The transition grant was a voluntary grant for the first year only of the new system of local council tax support. We have been clear from the outset that it was intended to give councils time to transition to the new localised regime and realise greater efficiencies such as cutting the estimated £200 million wasted on council tax benefit fraud and error." Another answer from the same Baroness seems like an admission that the estimated £200 million wasted etc., was based on guesswork. "Baroness King of Bow (Labour) To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Baroness Hanham on 15 October 2012 (WS 163), how the figure of £200 million claimed to have been paid out unnecessarily in 2011 in Council Tax Benefit in 2011–12 was calculated." ANSWER "Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative) The Department for Work and Pensions publishes an annual statistical report on fraud and error in the benefit system. The 2011-12 edition, which explains the methodology, can be found online at: https://www.gov.uk/g overnment/uploads/sy stem/uploads/attachm ent_data/file/222892 /fem_1112.pdf The estimated figure on council tax benefit fraud and error were based on data gathered for comparable measured benefits. As council tax benefit had many similarities to housing benefit, both in terms of entitlement and its administration, the Department for Work and Pensions based their estimate on the results of measurement of housing benefit, adjusted to account for the greater proportion of pensioners in receipt of council tax benefit." eekitout

8:58am Fri 3 Jan 14

eekitout says...

Local authorities refuse to support their costs. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the respective appeal Tribunal are being used in an attempt to mandate one council to disclose the costs it incurs in connection with issuing council tax summonses.

The following is the 'Appellant’s Notice' of appeal against a Decision Notice issued by the Information Commissioner in accordance with rule 22 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009.

Concerns a request for information made to North East Lincolnshire Council to obtain the council’s incurred costs in respect of issuing a Council Tax summons.

Grounds of Appeal:

Introduction

1. This is an appeal under section 57 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 against a Decision Notice FS50505226 issued by the Commissioner on 16 December 2013. These grounds of appeal are served together with the appellant’s notice of appeal, in accordance with rule 22 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009.

Background

2. The appeal concerns a request for information made to North East Lincolnshire Council. The appellant requested the council’s incurred costs in respect of issuing a Council Tax summons in specific circumstances where liability is settled after the issue of a summons but before the liability order is granted by the court. It should be noted that if the outstanding balance and an amount equal to reasonable costs incurred is paid or tendered to the authority, the application shall not be proceeded with.

3. Costs specific to the request are provided for in law under Regulation 34(5) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/613), to which will be referred in detail later. Under paragraph (5)(b), expenditure which the council may lawfully claim is described as “costs reasonably incurred ” and therefore must be a legal requirement for the council to hold the information.

4. Costs described under Regulation 34(5)(b), where there are no Court proceedings, are distinguished in law from those under 34(7)(b), which are described as “costs reasonably incurred by the applicant in obtaining the order ”. The request was made to the council in the following terms............con
tinued

http://www.scribd.co
m/doc/194668610/Grou
nds-of-Appeal
Local authorities refuse to support their costs. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the respective appeal Tribunal are being used in an attempt to mandate one council to disclose the costs it incurs in connection with issuing council tax summonses. The following is the 'Appellant’s Notice' of appeal against a Decision Notice issued by the Information Commissioner in accordance with rule 22 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009. Concerns a request for information made to North East Lincolnshire Council to obtain the council’s incurred costs in respect of issuing a Council Tax summons. Grounds of Appeal: Introduction 1. This is an appeal under section 57 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 against a Decision Notice FS50505226 issued by the Commissioner on 16 December 2013. These grounds of appeal are served together with the appellant’s notice of appeal, in accordance with rule 22 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009. Background 2. The appeal concerns a request for information made to North East Lincolnshire Council. The appellant requested the council’s incurred costs in respect of issuing a Council Tax summons in specific circumstances where liability is settled after the issue of a summons but before the liability order is granted by the court. It should be noted that if the outstanding balance and an amount equal to reasonable costs incurred is paid or tendered to the authority, the application shall not be proceeded with. 3. Costs specific to the request are provided for in law under Regulation 34(5) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/613), to which will be referred in detail later. Under paragraph (5)(b), expenditure which the council may lawfully claim is described as “costs reasonably incurred ” and therefore must be a legal requirement for the council to hold the information. 4. Costs described under Regulation 34(5)(b), where there are no Court proceedings, are distinguished in law from those under 34(7)(b), which are described as “costs reasonably incurred by the applicant in obtaining the order ”. The request was made to the council in the following terms............con tinued http://www.scribd.co m/doc/194668610/Grou nds-of-Appeal eekitout

5:40pm Fri 3 Jan 14

wally kennedy says...

The Magistrates have the ability to "write off" any council tax debt. However in the vast majority of cases the debtor never gets to go into the Magistrates Court itself to put forward their own case.
Yet the local Authorities put "Court Costs" onto the Liability Order.
I have asked Harrow Council to give me the dates of Liability orders ... the Magistrate's name who was sitting and issued each of those Orders.
They have refused up until now to provide that information in one case I was dealing with. Strangely enough ... all the Court Costs - for 4 seperate Liability Orders - were written off.
The Magistrates have the ability to "write off" any council tax debt. However in the vast majority of cases the debtor never gets to go into the Magistrates Court itself to put forward their own case. Yet the local Authorities put "Court Costs" onto the Liability Order. I have asked Harrow Council to give me the dates of Liability orders ... the Magistrate's name who was sitting and issued each of those Orders. They have refused up until now to provide that information in one case I was dealing with. Strangely enough ... all the Court Costs - for 4 seperate Liability Orders - were written off. wally kennedy

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