Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates & Haringey Council 10 am 30th April 2015 Royal Courts of Justice, WC2A 2LL

Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates and The London Borough of Haringey,

Judicial review 10 am 30th April 2015, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, all day.

There will be a demonstration outside the court from 9.30 – 10.30 – a full public gallery would be a great help. We wont know the court number until nearer the date.

THE MAGISTRATES FAIL TO CONTROL LEVEL OF COSTS THEY ENDORSE IN COUNCIL TAX CASES.

Rev Paul Nicolson – 07961177889 & 02083765455

The case began on the 2nd August 2013 when I asked the Tottenham magistrates how they arrived at £125 costs for a council tax summons. They refused to answer. It has transpired since then that they did not know the answer in August 2013 and are by no means any clearer now. Leave for judicial review was given on the 7th October 2014.

I will be represented by “Helen Mountfield QC and Eloise Le Santo of Matrix Chambers, acting through the Bar Pro Bono Unit”.

I asked the question in 2013 because I know that £125 is a big hit on top of the austerity measures and council tax arrears when charged against £72.40 a week JSA that is already paying the bedroom tax, and against all poverty level incomes in work and unemployment cut, capped  and council taxed. It is the equivalent to three weeks healthy food at £40 a week according to Rowntree researches. The statement I read to the magistrates on the 2nd August 2013 is on here . STATEMENT TO MAGISTRATES – August 2nd 2013 at the liability order. I regret not mentioning sanctions.

I hope the case will clarify the magistrates’ legal responsibilities when councils ask them for permission to increase costs in council tax cases and also the law relating to the calculation of the costs demanded by councils. Some of the issues are as follows;

(1) Evidence provided under the FOI Act by the Ministry of Justice (see note for editors) shows that they made no inquiries into Haringey’s decision to request a very large increase in costs from £95 to £125 in 2010/11. In effect a court clerk with no clear authority from the magistrates granted Haringey Council and increase of £600,000 income a year or £3 million over the five years to April 2015. Around 20,000 summonses are issued to Haringey residents every year  which in creased by 5000 in 2013/14 after Haringey started taxing benefits with 20% of the council tax.

(2) The magistrates were unaware of the council’s 2004 policy decision to charge as much as possible for court costs to act as a deterrent to late and non payers and to fund improved enforcement – until this case provided them with the evidence.

(3) The magistrates lack of inquiry meant they did not know the costs for summons and liability orders were being amalgamated by Haringey in 2009/10. If residents pay off arrears in full on the summons to court then Haringey still charges them for a cancelled court hearing; other councils do not charge for a court hearing if the tax is paid in full by the debtor when the summons is received. The regulations split the costs allowing the costs incurred up to the summons and then adding some if it goes to court

(4) The magistrates have allowed ​£1 million pa to be included in the costs by Haringey without asking any questions

Note for Editors.

I remain profoundly concerned about the disproportionate effects that that the court orders for increased costs, and their draconian consequences, in council tax cases are having on benefit claimants, and the poorest residents of Haringey, in the context of all the austerity measures applying to their incomes since April 2013.

I initiated the the case won against Haringey’s 2012 council tax consultation in the Supreme Court on the 29th October 2014 for exactly the same reason that I initiated this case. Haringey lost that case and the Supreme Court cited my protests in their judgement.

Para 22 “On 10 December 2012, following the end of the consultation, The Rev. Nicolson wrote a letter of protest to the Leader of Haringey Council, which ended as follows: “I am shocked that no alternative to hitting the fragile incomes of the poorest residents of Haringey … was included in the recent consultation.”

Pars 29. “Those whom Haringey was primarily consulting were the most economically disadvantaged of its residents. Their income was already at a basic level and the effect of Haringey’s proposed scheme would be to reduce it even below that level and thus in all likelihood to cause real hardship, while sparing its more prosperous residents from making any contribution to the shortfall in government funding.

Fairness demanded that in the consultation document brief reference should be made to other ways of absorbing the shortfall and to the reasons why (unlike 58% of local authorities in England: see para 15 above) Haringey had concluded that they were unacceptable. The protest of The Rev. Nicolson in his letter dated 10 December 2012 was well-directed”.

THE RELEVANT FOI ANSWER.

I was so astonished that the Magistrates knew nothing about how the cost of £125 are arrived at that I asked HMCTS to review the answer to this HMCTS/FOI/92649 question.

“Thank you for your email dated 08 August 2014 sent to the Ministry of Justice, in which you asked the following information;

(a) On what date between 4 March 2010 and the 23 March 2010 did the Bench Chairs Forum meet to consider Haringey Council’s application for a £30 increase in liability order costs to £125?
(b) Who was present at that meeting?
(c) Please send me a copy of the minute of that meeting?
(d) Please send me a copy of the relevant communication sent to Tottenham Magistrates court following that meeting?

Your request has been handled under the freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). I can confirm that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service does not hold the information that you have requested. To establish whether the information was held I conducted a thorough search, and made enquires with the London Regional Office and the Tottenham magistrates’ court within Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. The data that you have requested is no longer held as this was destroyed after 2 years in accordance with the HMCTS magistrates’ courts record retention and disposition policy.

MANIFESTOS No secure tenancy policy for families to raise children in community + solidarity&pensioner parents nearby

MANIFESTOS No secure tenancy policy for families to raise children

in community + solidarity&pensioner parents nearby

image001 (4)

Forcing housing associations to sell to their tenants is like ditching the lifeboats in a
PERFECT STORM

I was the Vicar of Turville, Bucks, from 1982 until 1999. You all know the village; I was there when they were filming the Vicar of Dibley. There are 35 houses in this ancient village in the beautiful Chiltern Hills, nestling in the vunder the windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Church dates back to saxon origins.

When I arrived there were six households renting two bedroomed semi-detached council bungalows. The Housing Act 1980 had introduced the right to buy. One of those bungalows was sold to the tenant for £25,000; when the time came they sold on for £250,000 and moved to Australia!. Now the bungalows are selling on for £500,000 or more. Location location location. The consequence is that families who rented for generations in the Chiltern Hills have been pushed into the surrounding towns. Vicars, with people employed by farmers and servants of the wealthy, living in tied houses, will soon be the only poor to low middle income workers left to enjoy living in the Chiltern Hills.

I now live in Tottenham where the renters are in a majority of 58% of householders over the owners on 42% according to the 2011 census. Renters are 33% of households nationally and 47% in London. National policy from all the major parties panders to the majority with rising equity in theirs homes as owners; either by leaving renters to the whims landlords and speculators of the UK free market in land and housing, or by attempting to bribe renters into owning.

As a result there in no coherent policy for secure tenancies in which families can bring up their children with a strong sense of solidarity and belonging to a   community of extended families with pensioner parents nearby. Tenants in Tottenham can look forward to insecurity of tenure, eviction, demolition of council estates or dispersal to who knows where. Home owners will enjoy increasing value in their homes until there is a collapse in the market as a result of governmental failure to provide a just housing policy in the UK

A PERFECT STORM of cuts caps and council tax hits the health of the poorest UK citizens and costs NHS billions

Letter in the Guardian 14/04/14 – My headline.

THIS IS WHAT A PERFECT STORM LOOKS LIKE – my headline

George Osborne states the policy of every political party when writing “by supporting the most vulnerable we can improve their lives and ease the pressures on the NHS”. Since the financial crisis in 2008, all advice agencies, such as CAB and Z2K, have been supporting the most vulnerable, whose lives are being devastated by cuts, caps, sanctions, council tax and unmanageable debt, all of which have added to the pressures on the NHS. But the DWP never takes into account the cumulative impact of its draconian policies on the health of the poorest citizens; and the NHS never calculates the extra cost of its services due to that increasing poverty.
Rev Paul Nicolson
London

THIS IS THE  LINK BETWEEN DEBT AND MENTAL HEALTH  – Royal College of Prychiatrists

THIS IS THE COST  OF ONLY MENTAL HEALTH TO THE HEALTH SERVICE, THE EMPLOYERS AND THE HUMAN COST – Faculty of Public Health

THIS IS THE IMPACT OF MALNUTRITION - Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.

OXFAMS PERFECT STORM TWEET Charity Commission replies to TAP election communication of UK poverty facts still curbed

OXFAM’S “PERFECT STORM” TWEET The Charity Commission replies to complaint from TAP; they curb the imaginative communication of the facts  about UK poverty by the Charities during the election

I have received two responses to my complaint to the Charity Commission that  OXFAM’s “THE PERFECT STORM” tweet should not have been stopped because it was an accurate description of the growing  depth of poverty in the UK since the financial crisis in 2008. One response was forwarded on from a TAP member and the other official response came to TAP  from Neil Robertson, their Head of Operations.  Charity Commission 20150410 – Response to complaint

TAP’s RESPONSE TO THE LETTER TO A TAP MEMBER – 12 APRIL 2015

Dear Neil Robertson,

I have been sent your letter to one of TAP’s supporter. I must immediately tell you that you are wrong to think “there may have been a misunderstanding about our engagement with Oxfam. We very much respect the right of freedom of speech and charities using their voice within the confines of the law to campaign and engage in political activity. Our concern was about the nature and content of the tweet (which took the form of a mock cinema advertisement) and not because it related to UK poverty.” A PERFECT STORM  was a very reasonable description of UK poverty picking up on the title of well known film to make a fair and just point. I doubt very much that the Lobby Act 2014 has set out to close down on such skilled communication of the dire circumstances the UKs poor citizens – – if it has then all the human rights to free speech have been substantially weakened.

There has been no misunderstanding. I must emphasise the point I made in my first reply to your letter to me. The issue is a legal one. “I suggest a court would find against your test of “could have been miscons​trued” a very inadequate test; someone always “misconstrues” especially about poverty​. OXFAM ​could​ argue that the tweet was reasonable in all the circumstances as set out in the “Wednesbury principles”. Judicial Review The Commission has failed to take all relevant evidence into account. I now add further evidence to support the view that “a perfect storm” used in the tweet was a reasonable description of the worsening circumstances of the poorest UK citizens since 2008. It is the “After Word” from Professor Danny Dorling’s book Afterword. Housing Chaos – Danny Dorling.

All That Is Solid: How the Great Housing Disaster Defines Our Times, and What We Can Do About  – 19 Feb 2014​.

The housing crisis is having a devastating impact on the poorest tenants,

​I will be returning to the legal issues,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Nicolson

PS us Nicolsons do not have an “h” to our name. It is all my father’s fault!

 

TAP’s RESPONSE TO THE FORMAL REPLY OF THE CHARITY COMMISSION

Charity Commission 20150410 – Response to complaint

On 11 April 2015 at 12:12, Paul Nicolson <taxpayersagainstpovertytap@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Neil Robertson,

I am very grateful to you for your response to my ​letter to your chair​ about the Charity Commissions treatment of OXFAMs “Perfect Storm” tweet. I am not at all reassured.

It is a sad fact that merely stating the facts of poverty in the UK leads to the assumption by some of left wing bias. I refer to Archbishop Helda Camara who, as you might know, famously said “”When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist.” You have not taken that into account.

Neither have you taken into account the thick clouds of misinformation, which all of us communicating to the public the facts of poverty in the UK have to penetrate. I googled “scroungers” and came up with the following. Please note that “benefit scroungers” has fallen from the lips of all political parties.

The incidence of fraud is 0.7% of the welfare bill; scroungers are few and far between but have been thrust into the headlines so distorting the facts of poverty in the lives of the millions that are the vast majority.

Charity Commission 20150410 – Response to complaint

1  Ex-wife of ‘too fat to work’ benefits scrounger … – Daily Mail
www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Too-fat-work-benefits-scrounger-six-ti…Daily Mail
Jan 11, 2015 – Ex-wife of ‘too fat to work’ benefits scrounger tells how she had to help him go to the toilet three times a day while he was having an affair – and

2. ‘evil’ of benefits scroungers – Daily Mail
www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Now-Ed-Miliband-gets-tough-onslau… Daily Mail
Dec 31, 2011 – Beleaguered Ed Miliband is to make a bold bid to boost his flagging ratings by condemning the ‘evil’ of scroungers who refuse to work.

3. Daughter of benefits scrounger with tenth child … – Daily Mail
www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Daughter-benefits-scrounger-tenth-ch… Daily Mail
Aug 17, 2010 – A benefits claimant who has fathered ten children and receives more than £30,000 a year in state handouts has been branded as lazy and …

4. Is Britain a nation of lazy scroungers? | News | The Guardian
www.theguardian.com › News › Benefits The Guardian Apr 24, 2013 – Headline writers in the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Daily Express all agree: a million Brits are fit to work but choose to live on benefits.

5. Daily Mail – Britain’s worst benefit-scrounging con…
https://www.facebook.com/DailyMail/posts/808516492541434 Jacqueline Stone In the U.S. you can’t get benefits without proof of who you are which is checked and records obtained directly from physicians, govt agencies, …

6. Am I a benefits scrounger? – Hull Daily Mail
www.hulldailymail.co.uk/benefits-scrounger…/story.html

 

You have repeated the Charity Commissioners judgement in your letter as follow;

“As you know from our Operational Case Report from which you have quoted, we considered that the tweet could have affected the views of those who received it and could have been misconstrued by some as party political campaigning. This was to do with the nature and content of the tweet (which took the form of a mock cinema advertisement) and not because it related to UK poverty. If the tweet had contained factually accurate information about poverty in the UK or had referred to the ‘Below the Breadline’ report it was meant to highlight, it is unlikely that there would have been a problem.”

I suggest a court would find against your test of “could have been miscons​trued” inadequate, someone will always “misconstrue” especially about poverty​. OXFAM ​could​ argue that the tweet was reasonable in all the circumstances as set out in the Wednesbury principles.

In order to attract attention to the facts of poverty in the already very crowded media dominated by those who deny those facts OXFAM in my view employed the absolutely necessary tactic of a startling headline and presentation that was in no way an exaggeration of those facts.

I am attaching a case I am currently supporting anonymised hit by that perfect storm. When presented with the facts the magistrates remitted the outstanding £135 of his fine. I am profoundly concerned about the lack of understanding at the Charity Commission of the perfect storm of poverty that hits innocent and decent people in the UK.

​With good wishes, ​

Rev Paul Nicolson

We all know rent linked to housing market is unaffordable why does CofE switch link from income to market this month

I am showing below this introduction a letter I sent yesterday to the Chair of the Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB) who are part of the Church’s property empire. My formal request was rejected within four hours by the Chair and CEO. The remorseless rise of rents against diminishing incomes is too serious for me to back off.
NATIONAL HOUSING POLICY AND THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND. 
 
Parliament has linked “affordable” rents to the chaotic UK housing market; rents therefore rise with the market in short supply and homes are made unaffordable. That is now common knowledge among everyone who thinks about national housing policy; and yet the CEPB chooses this month to switch its “affordable” rents from a link to incomes to a link to the market. 
Leaders of all the major churches in the UK have criticised, as a matter of Christian principle,  the free-market economics that have dominated the UK since the 1980s. Pope Francis has been among the most outspoken. Central to our way of life is the difficult task of loving everyone and loving the poorest people first.  The Archbishop of Canterbury said on the
 
“Adam Smith famously spoke with equal conviction of the dangers of market manipulation as he did of the invisible hand. The experience of 2008 shows that the complexity of human motivation and greed can never be left to the market to deal with. There is no such thing as a level playing field if human beings are involved, and there is no such thing as a fully fair and free market. It doesn’t exist”.
 
Church leaders are rightly spelling out the direction in which economic policy should move to making the market serve all the people rather than unjustly flood with wealth the coffers of the already rich;  but some of their followers are finding it hard to keep up,  notably the Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB), who are part the CofE property empire. 
 
Nowhere has the downside of free market economics been more damaging to people receiving the lowest incomes than to renters in the UK housing market. Free market principles have been allowed to run on beyond the 2008 crisis that was mostly created by the banks lending unsustainable amounts of money for house purchase beginning in the 1980s; the shortage of supply led to ever increasing rents. 
 
Parliament has linked “affordable” rents to the chaotic UK housing market; rents therefore rise with the market in short supply and homes are made unaffordable. That is now common knowledge among everyone who thinks about national housing policy. and yet the CEPB chooses this month to switch its “affordable” rents from a link to incomes to a link to the market. 
 
I live in Tottenham and I have been trying to speak to the Chair and CEO of the CEPB since that switch was announced but my landlord might as well live overseas. 
 
The majority of households rent their homes in Tottenham at 58%; that is a pressure cooker of unaffordable homes. The national figure is 33%. National housing policy is run for the 67% of home owners, landlords, developers, national and international speculators with devastating damage to the renters.  
 
Its time for the CofE to sort out its property policy to match it principles and to contribute to national housing policy while charging affordable rents linked to income for its own tenants. 
 
Rev Paul Nicolson 

Dr Jonathan Spencer, Chair,

Church of England Pensions Board,

8th April 2015

A FORMAL REQUEST TO THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND PENSIONS BOARD THAT THEY REFLECT ON THE IMPACT ON UK TENANTS OF LINKING SO CALLED “AFFORDABLE” RENTS TO THE MARKET RENTS.

I am making this formal request as a member of the Church of England, as a tenant of the CEPB living in Tottenham[1] and as founder of both the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust in 1995 and Taxpayers Against Poverty in 2012.

The CoE’s role as major UK property owner in influencing the UK housing policy in the interests of everyone, while prioritising the poorest tenants, is too important to be left unconsidered by the board. I have attempted several times to enter into informal dialogue with Bernadette Kenny, and yourself, but sadly without any positive response.

I suggest the problem to be discussed is “How do we relate our faith to national policies in the UK housing market”. We know we are committed by our faith to love everyone and to love our poorest fellow citizens first. The CEPB, however, has led the General Synod into making a decision to link rents of pensioners living in their property to the market from April this year, rather than to our incomes as it has was before. That policy is incompatible with the central tenet of our faith. On the one hand Archbishop of York encourages the spread of the living wage; on the other the CEPB switches to a policy which, on a national scale, takes more and more out of it in rent so undermining its original intention[2]. The housing market has similarly devastating impact on the lives of the unemployed. Living in Tottenham I used be able to say “The CofE has got it right; we link rents to incomes”.

The CoE’s behavior as a large property owner playing the market undermines the credibility of our faith based campaigning for the poorest tenants. In his speech at Church House on the 4th February 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury said.

“Adam Smith famously spoke with equal conviction of the dangers of market manipulation as he did of the invisible hand. The experience of 2008 shows that the complexity of human motivation and greed can never be left to the market to deal with. There is no such thing as a level playing field if human beings are involved, and there is no such thing as a fully fair and free market. It doesn’t exist”.

Land is inevitably limited in supply. It does not fit the extreme free market ideology governing us from 1980 to 2008. The housing market is creating havoc in the lives of the poorest tenants because rents are linked to an ever rising market rent and not to their incomes.

National housing policy is run by both major parties in the interests of home owners, landlords, including by-to-let, developers, national and international speculators of which the C of E is one. There is a political motive in raising the price of a home in the UK. Home owners are in a majority and are less likely to vote for a party that reduces the price of their homes; so money has been allowed by Parliament to flood into a market in short supply forcing up the price of land and homes, and with it the rents, following the deregulation of lending, the abolition of rent controls and allowing the free flow of cash in and out of the UK from the 1980’s.

Therefore social rents at 60% or 80% of market rents will continue to take up an ever increasing proportion of income creating hunger and homelessness. National policy seeks to extend home ownership to the poorest citizens while the housing shortage is so great and prices so high that would be owners start renting at 50% or more of their income.

Owner occupiers are in a majority in England. We know from the 2011 census that 33.1% of the population in England live in rented accommodation, so do 47% of the population of London and 58% in the London Borough of Haringey; of which 17% live in council accommodation, 10% in Housing Associations and 30% in the private rented sector.

Owner occupiers are in a minority in Haringey at 40%. Haringey is the most unequal borough in London. Owner occupation and wealth is greater in the west in Highgate with concentrations of social rented housing in Tottenham in the east. 30% of Haringey’s population lives in wards ranked among the 10 most deprived in England. I live in Tottenham in one of those wards where there is a sense of community and solidarity that should be supported but which the market threatens to disperse.

Owner occupiers in the Highgate area of Haringey can look forward to the increasing value of their asset. Tenants in the Tottenham area of Haringey, with no such asset, can look forward increasing rents, massive demolitions of council estates and eviction out of London.

There is an impractical attempt by the Council to force tenants into buying a home but that will take decades meanwhile the rents will continue upwards. Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) for Haringey’s Draft Housing Strategy shows there is evidence that Black residents in Haringey may not benefit from the plans to build more homes in the borough through promoting affordable home ownership in east Haringey. That is unlikely in London because here affordability and the UK housing market do not mix.

The two most important national policies from the point of view of the poorest tenants are those affecting

(a) the size of their rents and

(b) the size of their statutory minimum incomes in work and unemployment.

Since the 1980s their rents have been going up and so the value statutory minimum incomes go down. Until 2008 that meant a massive increase in housing benefit to £22 billion a year. In 2008 the Labour government started cutting housing benefit and the coalition extended that policy from 2010 (but housing benefit still rises because of the market rents making landlords richer). You have raised rents and encouraged us to apply for housing benefit like any other landord profiting at the cost of the tax payer.

The 2008 and 2010 policies mean that tenants now pay rent out of their reducing benefit incomes; but up to 2008 they received 100% of the rent in housing benefit leaving the balance to pay for food, utilities, clothes, transport and other necessities. Workfare, zero hours contracts and sanctions are also depressing in the lives of the poorest tenants.

I strongly recommend you and the CEPB read the;

1. Z2K Memorandum to the Prime Minister on unaffordable housing which I commissioned from the late Professor Peter Ambrose in 2005. It was sent to Tony Blair by Lord Alf Morris of Manchester. The Prime Minister replied he had read it with interest . http://z2k.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Memorandum-to-the-Prime-Minister-on-Unaffordable-Housing.pdf

2. The attached anonymized case I put to the magistrates for a Tottenham tenant; unaffordable rents, council tax and sanctions are a toxic mixtrure. Please note the damage done to an innocent man’s health – he is no better or worse than any of us but he is innocently very poor.

I very much hope you will encourage the CEPB to examine their responsibilities to the UK housing market as a whole and the poorest tenants in particular.

With good wishes,

Paul Nicolson