Hunger is the fault of Parliament not the benefit claimants TAP says to MPs

October 2015

TAP Submission to APPG on hunger  – final

We are addressing the following question posed in
Feeding Britain – Call for Evidence.

What are the key problems facing people who are hungry, in respect to their living costs such as rent, food, water, communications, transport, gas and electricity?

The short answer is that Parliament has created a toxic mixture of utility, fines, rent, council tax arrears & court costs, which sends people to food banks.


TAP tells MPs your toxic mixture of utility fines rent council tax arrears & court costs sends people to food banks




IN APRIL 2015.

TAP submission to the Justice Committee inquiry into courts and tribunals fees and charges 

We will also be sending to the Justice Committee our submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger





a) The mandatory fees in the Magistrates Courts in April 2015 of up to £1200 were introduced without any consultation just before the election.

b) It devastates the poorest citizens who cannot pay for a TV licence, a bus or a train ticket, or whose children are persistent truants; they are prosecuted as criminals.

c) Simultaneously the jobcentres are stopping people’s incomes with a sanction from one month to three years. Sanctions are draconian punishments by the jobcentres without a fair trial.

d) If the magistrates are to take into account that loss of means and any vulnerable circumstances in setting a proportionate fine there has to be a trial. But a guilty and not guilty person who has been sanctioned, and so impoverished, is unlikely to go to court and risk the new surcharges.

e) They will therefore be fined £200 plus £150 costs in their absence, which they cannot pay. The enforcement process then leads to the bailiffs on the doorstep demanding immediate payment of the fine plus costs of £350 plus their fees of up to £420.

f) Some have been fined before they are sanctioned and fall into arrears with the court because of the sanction.

g) The government recognises vulnerable situations more in the breach than in the observance.


a. The Ministry of Justice should publish breakdown of the total income from the £150 cost incurred by the magistrates’ courts when issuing a summons, setting the fines and enforcing them. Costs should be costs and not a fine, a deterrent or a profit. It should be noted that millions of fines are imposed by magistrates en bloc at little cost.

b. The £1200 criminal courts charge should be abolished in the magistrates’ courts because it is inevitably disproportionate in the context of the individual and family indebtedness created by Parliament.

c. The Wednesbury principles and proportionality, when legislating to fine vulnerable and impoverished citizens, and add costs, should be paramount the minds of the government.


TAP has asked Grant Thornton, Haringey Council’s external auditors, to write a report in the public interest about the £125 court costs the magistrates allow the council to charge 20,000 late and non payers of council tax. The report is due within the neXt ten days and will be sent to the Justice Committee and published by TAP.



Since 2012 TAP has fought Haringey hitting benefit claimants with council tax caps & cuts 30 min video tells story



This thirty minute video made, at the request of and paid for by Haringey residents, describes winning in the courts against the council on two occasions.

First in the Supreme Court where their 2012 council tax consultation was found to be unlawful because the council had no alternative to taxing the poorest residents and had decided to do it before they consulted about it.

Second a liability order was found to be unlawful by the High Court because on the 2nd August 2013 the Tottenham magistrates and the council refused to say how they arrived at the £125 costs they impose on late and non payers on top of the arrears. The High Court decided that was “indefensible”.

We now await verdict of Grant Thornton, Haringey’s external auditors, on the legality or otherwise of that £125 costs which the council charges over 20,000 residents every year.

The video also touches on;

1. A benefit system providing incomes below the level needed for healthy living in work and unemployment, and reducing in value,
2. The creation of debts by national and local government in a chaotic housing market, where the three cuts in housing benefits result in unmanageable rent arrears,
3. Sanctions that make the payment of fines, rent and council tax arrears, court costs and fees impossible.

TAP will be giving evidence to the Justice Committee of MPs who are inquiring in to Courts and Tribunals Fees and Charges.

PS Correction in the video I have inadvertently called myself a “member” of the Iona Community – I am not. I am in fact an associate. PN

Ministerial obfuscation at the DWP about the link between poverty incomes and ill health

I have just sent this letter to Priti Patel MP, Minister for Employment following her obfuscatory response last Thursday to an amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill suggested by Taxpayers Against Poverty and moved by Kate Green MP ​, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, ​which would have required the Secretary of State to take account of the determinants of health when writing an annual report about child poverty. ​We are working with ​Dr Angela Donkin from University College London’s Institute of Health Equity,
​The Minister ​has indulged in obfuscation when responding to evidence of the link between income and health. The Bill removes income from governmental head line statements about poverty.
We fully accept that is absurd to suggest that income is the only measure of poverty but we submit that it is even more absurd to exclude, in an Act of Parliament,  the impact of low incomes from an annual report by the Secretary of State on the life chances of children.
Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities. “Amendment 80 (to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill) addresses child health. I am grateful to Dr Angela Donkin from University College London’s Institute of Health Equity, and Taxpayers Against Poverty, for their comprehensive and helpful briefing on the amendment”. Hansard 17/09/15 c olmn 187.…/15…/am/150917s01.htm

To:The Minister for Employment.

cc Work and Pensions Committee.

​From: the Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty​

21st September 2015

Dear Minister,

I am writing as the founder of Taxpayers Against Poverty and as a member of the Board of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.

In the debate last Thursday about amendment 80 to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which would require the Secretary of State to consider key health indicators in his annual report about the life chances of children, you said;

 The Department of Health has already (start at Hansard clmn 191) commissioned University College London’s Institute of Health Equity to produce health inequalities indicators on a regular basis to complement the framework. Those indicators reflect the recommendations of the Marmot review, and profiles will be published for 150 upper-tier local authorities. Our decision to limit our headline statutory measures to worklessness and educational attainment was deliberate and supported by evidence”

​To clarify the issues I​  would be grateful if you will place the following ​evidence​  from the Marmot review on record in Hansard when the committee meets again on the 13th October.

  1. The final report, ‘Fair Society Healthy Lives‘, was published in February 2010, and concluded that reducing health inequalities would require action on six policy objectives:
  • Give every child the best start in life
  • Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives
  • Create fair employment and good work for all
  • Ensure healthy standard of living for all
  • Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
  • Strengthen the role and impact of ill-health prevention

​2. ​The report was quite specific about the importance of the minimum income for healthy living, here are the relevant quotes from the Executive Summary;

  • Priority Objectives in “Ensure a healthy standard of living for all” placed income first  – 1. Establish a minimum income for healthy living for people of all ages
  • Providing paid parental leave in the first year of life with a minimum income for healthy living
  • The calculation of Minimum Income for Healthy Living (MIHL) includes the level of income needed for adequate nutrition, physical activity, housing, social interactions, transport, medical care and hygiene.
  • In England there are gaps between a minimum income for healthy living and the level of state benefit payments that many groups receive.
  • Review and implement systems of taxation, benefits, pensions and tax credits to provide a minimum income for healthy living standards and pathways for moving upwards.
  1. The indicators which the Institute if Health Equity now looks at include the percentage of households by region who have an insufficient income to meet the minimum income standard set by Joseph Rowntree.

​4. Not having enough money can impact on health ​ in the following ways. ​

  •  Homelessness.  There were 280000 cases in 2014. The homeless are more likely to die at any age than housed contemporaries, and are 35 more times more likely to commit suicide. They are twice as likely to get cancer.  82% have one physical health problem, 72% have at least one mental health problem.
  • Inability to heat homes ​ or cook food​. 10.4% of the population are in fuel poverty.  There were 18, 200 excess winter deaths in 2013/14.   In the 25% of coldest homes, there is a 20% increased risk of winter mortality.  Also cold homes are linked to higher level of respiratory conditions, poor mental health, and higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
  •  Food poverty.   Lower income groups consume less protein, iron, fewer fruits and veg, less vit C, less fish, less oily fish, and less folate.  For example,  39% of women and girls in the lowest income group are below LRNI for iron, compared with 12% in highest income group. Lack of iron can lead to lethargy, higher susceptibility to illness and infection, heart and lung complications.  Pregnant women with anaemia have higher risk of complications before and after birth.
  •  Children Children born into poverty suffer an increased risk of mortality in the first year of life and in adulthood, are more likely to be born early and small and they face more health problems in later life.  Preventing low birth weight should be a priority for public health officials, however efforts to do this will be hampered if parents have insufficient incomes.  If the life chances of children are to be fully considered then it should e recognized that life chances begin in the womb, and not at birth.
  • Poverty and particularly debt increase the likelihood of mental disorders,  including sleep deprivation and depression among new mothers.  The effects are particularly evident among women because they are more likely to handle family budgets, have caring responsibilities and are often the ‘shock absorbers’ of reduced family incomes, meaning that they go without to protect their children from the worst effects of poverty.  Maternal depression is then, in itself, a significant risk factor for poor social and emotional development in children.

5.​ ​The Department of Health have now cut the funding of the Institute so they will no longer by able to produce health inequality measures.

​In addition; ​

​6. ​ You did not respond to the evidence we submitted to the committee, and ​raised by members of the committee, and which was published in the attached letter to the Church Times, of;

Life chances of the poorest members of society – Church Times 4th September 2015

We fully accept that is absurd to suggest that income is the only measure of poverty but we submit that it is even more absurd to exclude, in an Act of Parliament,  the impact of low incomes from an annual report by the Secretary of State on the life chances of children.

Benefit cap is a housing benefit cut it hurts families with council tax benefit & other cuts.Together they are fatal.

The benefit cap is a housing benefit cut that hurts families. It was smuggled into public acceptance by the coalition government with the misleading strap line ” It is not fair on hardworking families that the unemployed should have a higher income than the employed”.

David Cameron in the Daily Mail; “Hard-working taxpayers were left to pick up the tab – and often they had lower incomes than those they supported on welfare. This is about ending that injustice”.

They will now reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 which cuts the housing benefit ever deeper as rents rise.

The real injustice is that benefits are being cut to the bone to enable tax cuts for those who are not being asked to make any sacrifice to to reduce the deficit and are to finance their taxcuts. .

It is vital to understand how the so called benefit cap works.

I have selected the cases below from the analysis of the cumulative impact of the cuts in housing benefit and council of over 13,000 households by Haringey Council in 2012. CTB_appendix

The points to be understood are;

1. The average weekly income included housing benefit which covered 100% of rent.

2. The benefit cap, the local housing allowance and spare room supplement (bedroom tax)  are euphemisms for cuts in housing benefit.

3. Some single adult households are paying £20 rent (bedroom tax) and £5 (council tax) out of £73.10 JSA/ESA/IS.

2. To comply with the £500 benefit cap councils have to cut housing benefit; so if the total benefit income is £600 then the housing benefit will have to be cut by £100 which leaves that amount of rent to be paid by the remaining £500. So £400 is left.

3. But there are other cuts that hurt familes and indivuuals applied at the same time. In the two cases shown the cumulative maximum cuts are

CASE A £7.43 (CTB) + £641.24 (BC) = £648.67
CASE B £6.29 (CTB) + £178.85 (LHA) + £414.80 (BC) = £599.94

Detail of these two selected cases from Haringey’s analysis.

The chaotic cumulative impact across the Borough is shown here. The London Borough of Haringey – The impact of austerity on benefit claimants.

It all depends on the rising level of rents.

It is not the fault of the tenants.

4. The point to note is that in both of these cases the cuts in housing benefit and council tax benefit take all or more of the £500 cap leaving no money to buy food, fuel or any other necessity. It is also impossible to pay the council tax. Enforcement of council tax adds £125 court costs and up to £400 bailiffs fees.

5. To a lesser extent that is the consequence of both single and cumulative cuts in housing benefit and council tax benefit in all households claiming benefits; the already low (and frozen) income needed for necessities is drastically reduced.

6. The government will tell you that there is a discretionary housing benefit that can be used in hard cases. There are more hard cases than it can cover and it is limited. When it runs out there is no more.

7. Residents in the wealthy wards of Kensington live to 88, on average 17 years longer than those in the poorest wards of Tottenham who live to 71 years. The  same gap between rich and poor wards exists in Stockton on Tees.  That evidence supports the call for statutory minimum incomes needed for healthy living to reduce the inequalities in health in prosperous UK. But benefit incomes are frozen while prices rise; rent arrears are created by three cuts in housing benefit, euphemistically and misleadingly called the local housing allowance, the spare bedroom supplement and the benefit cap, while rents rise. Council tax is enforced against already shredded benefits.

The cumulative impact of them hurts all families claiming benefits and reduces to zero the income needed for food, fuel and other necessities for some families with three or more children; depending on their rent.