A landmark council tax and benefits court case, in the UK, between a retired vicar and a London borough council has been adjourned, to Thursday August 4, by Tottenham magistrates.
The Rev Paul Nicolson appeared in court to defend himself against having not paid council tax of £2,800 in protest against “benefit cuts that are shortening people’s lives”.
The case was put back at the request of both sides but for different reasons.
Speaking outside the court after the seven-week adjournment, Rev Nicolson said: “l attended Tottenham Magistrates Court today to answer a summons to a liability order hearing for non-payment of £2,800 council tax to Haringey Council.
“The case was adjourned by the Magistrate at the request of both the council and myself but for different reasons. The council because they were not ready to address the issue I have raised; myself because I am awaiting the decision of the civil Appeal Court about whether they will hear my appeal against the High Court’s decision on the same issue as the one I have now raised with the magistrates.
“I am asking the council to explain why they did not raise with their auditors, Grant Thornton, the cumulative impact of benefit cuts, caps and council tax on the health and well-being of thousands of low income Haringey residents, in work and unemployment, when the council tax enforcement costs were being audited.
“I had raised the issue with Grant Thornton, Haringey’s accountants, when they were auditing the enforcement costs, now £115, that are imposed by the magistrates in bulk, sometimes 1000s at a time, on top of council tax and rent arrears and while individual’s and family’s income is stopped for three months during a benefit sanction. They replied ‘we have no remit …to opine on the impact of this policy on the well-being of those required to pay council tax’.
He said that his question is ‘Why no remit?’ when the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has guidance, issued to courts and councils. This specifically draws attention to the vulnerable circumstances of residents with a disability, the seriously ill, pensioners, single parents, pregnant women, the recently bereaved.”
What’s more, Rev Nicolson said that minister Lord Freud has written in a letter to him that “Four principles have underpinned welfare reforms. First the welfare system should support the elderly, vulnerable and disabled people…”.
And, remember, those words come from the government’s welfare reform minister at the Department of Work and Pensions.