Councils asked not to seek costs for council tax liability orders until they review their legality and rationality

Reverend Paul Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates & The London Borough of Haringey

On the advice of lawyers running this case I have sent the following letter to all councils and magistrates courts in England and Wales. It would be good if you can get the local papers to enquire of them both what they intend to do about it. They have been asked to;

“….. to cease seeking orders for council tax liability order costs until they have reviewed the legality and rationality of the orders which they seek”.

If they say they have not got it then send me the email addresses of the council leaders and local magistrates court then I will send it to them.

Zacchaeus 2000 Trust is running campaign against council tax in London so they will be sending a similar letter to London Councils and Magistrates Courts.

To; Council Leaders in England and Wales
cc; Magistrates Courts

Reverend Paul Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates & The London Borough of Haringey

I attach the approved note of the judgment and the order for directions of Mr Justice Green granting permission on 7 October 2014 to myself to challenge the decision of the magistrates to award costs against me at the hearing of Haringey Council’s application by Tottenham Magistrates against me for a council tax liability order on 2 August 2013.

Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates – Order for directions sealed by the court 7 October 2014   Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates – Counsel’s note of judgment o

I am inviting all councils to cease seeking orders for council tax liability order costs until they have reviewed the legality and rationality of the orders which they seek.

I are aware that since April 2013 you all embark on the enforcement of council tax arrears against the benefit incomes of late and non-payers whose increases are frozen at 1% a year while the prices of food, domestic fuel and other necessities are escalating, and which are being forced to pay rent due to LHA, bedroom tax, the £500 benefit cap and DWP sanctions.

Liability order costs orders are granted in bulk, sometimes over 1000 at a time, by the magistrates. The costs are mostly disproportionate against the benefit incomes adding to the known distress of debt and poverty.

Further to the permission hearing on 7 October 2014, it now appears to me that there must be serious doubts as to the legality of the costs orders sought by many councils in respect of unpaid council tax. A 2004 Haringey Council Minute referred to in the skeleton argument lodged on my behalf indicates that costs may have been set by reference to objectives of deterrence and funding other enforcement action; is that so in your council?

If so, having regard to the decision in Attfield v Barnet LBC [2013] EWHC 2-89 Admin) [2013 PTSR 1559, all such demands for costs are plainly ultra vires regulation 34 of the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations 1992. The costs provisions of these regulations are not set as a revenue raising measure, nor do they confer punitive or deterrent powers. They only permit costs to be sought and awarded by reference to costs actually and reasonably ‘incurred’.

Moreover, it did not appear that the Council could either produced or can produce an adequately reasoned justification for the levels of costs which it claims are incurred in issuing summons and seeking liability orders; is that the case in your council?

I also ask your councils to draw the attached approved note of the judgment and the sealed order for directions to the attention of any future bench of magistrates considering your applications for liability orders. I am copying the attachments to the magistrates with whom you may wish to initiate discussions. They may wish to be satisfied that the amount claimed by way of costs in any individual case is no more than that reasonably incurred by the authority. (See 3.4 DCLG Council Tax Guidance to local councils on good practice in the collection of Council Tax Justice Network arrears)

In my view, this is the right course bearing in mind the Councils’ duty to the courts, in circumstances where the overwhelming majority of respondents to applications for liability and costs orders will be unrepresented.

I would be grateful if you will confirm receipt of this letter and your undertaking to take these steps.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Tottenham

HARINGEY COUNCIL HAS BROKEN THE LAW – LETTER TO THE LEADER OF HARINGEY COUNCIL

CALLING TOGETHER

Without allegiance to any political party
all organisations willing to support
the poorest residents of Haringey

OR  IN ANY OTHER BOROUGH IN ENGLAND AND WALES

To the leader Haringey Council
Councillor Claire Kober

10th November 2012

Dear Councillor Kober,

Haringey Council’s 2012 council tax consultation is now illegal. The council has broken the law. It is time you put that right. The supreme court judges did not order you to re-run the 2012 council tax consultation but neither did they ban it. Continuing to tax the benefits of the poorest residents after an illegal consultation is a disgrace. It is also incompatible with your consultation charter.

On the 10th December 2012 I wrote to you;

“I am shocked that no alternative to hitting the fragile incomes of the poorest residents of Haringey [with council tax] … was included in the recent consultation.”

That protest is as true today as it was in 2012.

Declaring your consultation unlawful, Justice Lord Wilson wrote, on behalf of all five judges: “The protest of the Rev Nicolson in his letter … was well directed.”

As for Love Lane estate the council can no longer tell residents; ‘We have decided to demolish your homes and are now consulting you about it’ “.

On advice of lawyers I have already written to the council inviting you to cease seeking £125 costs from magistrates for summons and liability orders until you have reviewed the legality and rationality of costs you seek. See High Court leave for judicial review and Judge Green’s order for directions. Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates – Counsel’s note of judgment o Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates – Order for directions sealed by the court 7 October 2014

We therefore write to demand you take immediate and appropriate action following the High Court decision on the 7th October and the Supreme Court decision on the 29th October.

1. That the council ceases seeking £125 costs from the Magistrates for summons and liability orders against late and non payers of council tax until you have reviewed the legality and rationality of the costs you seek. (Folkstone magistrates have already stopped granting costs following Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates)

2. That you re-run the council tax consultation before you settle the 2015/16 council tax to including the option of increasing the council tax enough to remove the 20% of the council tax that is charged to benefit claimants ; we believe it is unfair of you to continue with a council tax reduction scheme on the basis of an illegal consultation.

3. That you run a consultation about Love Lane estate that includes the option of refurbishment rather than demolition.

We are also applying for a delegation to the first council meeting after this date.

Simon Hester – Haringey Trades Council
Steve Ballard – Haringey Unite Community
Jenny Sutton – Trades Union and Socialist Coalition
Dave Morris, Secretary, Haringey Federation of Residents Associations
Sean Fox – Haringey UNISON Joint Branch Secretary
Haringey Solidarity Group
Matt Willigrass and Elaine Graham-Leigh, North London People’s Assembly Against Austerity
Rev Robert Wilkinson, St Paul’s Church, Tottenham.
Westminster Justice and Peace Commission.
Haringey Defend Council Housing

The list is open for all other organisations committed to the poorest citizens to join at any time.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Nicolson

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

IN ALL FAIRNESS THERE MUST BE ALTERNATIVES TO LOCAL COUNCILS TAXING BENEFITS BEING SHREDDED BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

 

I AM GLAD TO HAVE INITIATED THESE TWO CASES ON BEHALF OF TAP – Rev Paul Nicolson.

IN ALL FAIRNESS THERE MUST BE  ALTERNATIVES TO LOCAL COUNCILS TAXING BENEFITS BEING SHREDDED BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

LETTER IN THE GUARDIAN 3 NOVEMBER 2014

Two judgments given in October will impact on all council-tax payers, magistrates courts, local authorities and governmental consultations of the public. On 29 October the supreme court decided that the London borough of Haringey’s 2012 council-tax consultation was unlawful. On 10 December 2012 I had written to the leader of Haringey council: “I am shocked that no alternative to hitting the fragile incomes of the poorest residents of Haringey [with council tax] … was included in the recent consultation.” Declaring that consultation unlawful, Justice Lord Wilson wrote: “The protest of the Rev Nicolson in his letter … was well directed.”

Alternatives to the council’s preferred options must now be put to the public in a future consultation. In all fairness there must be an alternative to local government taxation of benefits that are being shredded by central government (Cameron accused of getting sums wrong on cuts, 31 October).

On 7 October the high court gave me leave for judicial review of the £125 costs for a summons sought by Haringey council from 28,882 late or non-paying households in 2013-14. The costs are imposed by Tottenham magistrates against benefit incomes on top of inevitable arrears.

I have deliberately allowed my council tax to become a civil debt. I was duly summoned to court, which allowed me the opportunity to ask the magistrates how they arrived at that £125. Haringey council has now withdrawn a summons against me, “as a matter of prudence during this period of on going litigation” and waived the £125.

The council has not replied to my letter inviting them to cease issuing all summons until it has reviewed the rationality and legality of that £125 it asks the magistrates to impose. Maybe all magistrates and councils in England and Wales should take notice.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

HARINGEY COUNCIL LOSES TO LOCAL CAMPAIGNERS IN SUPREME COURT BATTLE ABOUT 2012 COUNCIL TAX CONSULTATION.

MEDIA RELEASE
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
07961177889 – 02083765455

HARINGEY COUNCIL LOSES TO LOCAL CAMPAIGNERS IN SUPREME COURT BATTLE ABOUT 2012 COUNCIL TAX CONSULTATION.

The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed the appeal against Haringey Council’s 2012 council tax consultation and declared it unlawful. However they have not ordered the council to undertake take a fresh consultation.

“This is a powerful win for local campaigners who opposed the taxation of benefits by Haringey Council. The council is taxing the lowest benefits that are needed for food, domestic fuel and shelter. The judgement leaves the council free to re-consult all the residents about whether council tax should be increased by an average of 86 pence a week to restore the 100% council tax benefit for the poorest residents. Alex Rook of the lawyers Irwin Mitchell and I believe that should now happen” said The Rev Paul Nicolson.

On the 7th October I was given leave in the High Court to seek a judicial review of the £125 costs imposed by Tottenham Magistrates at the request of Haringey council on late and non payers of council tax 1000s at a time whatever their means.  National and local governments have ignored  the oppressive  impact of council tax and its enforcement.

The judgment of the five Supreme Court Judges says “the purported consultation was premised on the assumption that the shortfall would be met by a reduction in council tax relief and no other option was presented”.

I am delighted that my written objections in the “purported” consultation about Haringey’s scheme to tax benefits are quoted in their judgement.

“One of the 36 letters and emails was an email sent to Haringey by The Reverend Paul Nicolson, a prominent anti-poverty campaigner, on 29 October 2012.
He wrote:

“I write to oppose your proposals on the grounds that the
25,560 households who now pay no council tax will not be able
to pay 20%, or around £300 pa, from ApriI2013 … [B]enefits
are paid… to our poorest fellow citizens to provide the
necessities of life; they are already inadequate … ”

On 6 November 2012 Haringey responded:

“We have asked for comments around protecting groups in
addition to Pensioners, however protecting additional groups
will have an impact on the remaining recipients who will have
to pay a higher amount to cover the shortfall. Your email below
is unclear as to which group you are suggesting we protect and
how we then make up the shortfall.”

In his response dated 7 November 2012 The Rev. Nicolson observed:

“I am aware that central government has cut its council tax
benefit grant to … Haringey and all other councils by 10.
Other councils are absorbing the cut and continuing [to]
implement the current CT benefit scheme. Why cannot
Haringey do the same? There is no consultation taking place
about that central issue.”

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.”

The protest of the Rev Nicolson in his letter of the 10th December 2012 was well directed”
Page 11

http://supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2013_0116_PressSummary.pdf

SUPREME COURT DECISION ON HARINGEY COUNCIL’S 2012 COUNCIL TAX CONSULTATION DUE WEDNESDAY 29 OCT case started by TAP

SUPREME COURT DECISION ABOUT HARINGEY COUNCIL’S 2012 COUNCIL TAX CONSULTATION DUE ON WEDNESDAY 29TH OCTOBER .

This case was kicked off by a telephone call to lawyers from The Rev Paul Nicolson, a resident of Haringey, on behalf of Taxpayers Against Poverty. I was concerned that one of the alternatives to the draft scheme, about which the consultation took place, did not include was the option of increasing the average band D by 86 pence a week which would have kept the 100% benefit for low income households in work and unemployment.

We now have the unfair tax 20% of tax on benefits, which takes away with one hand what has been given with the other, on top of the 1% freeze, the bedroom tax, cuts in housing benefit, increasing rents and the escalating prices of food and domestic fuel.

On top of that imposition on the lowest incomes in the borough the Magistrates imposed £125 costs on 27,882 households in 2013/14 the first year benefits were taxed. The bailiffs then add to the impossible debts a minimum of £75 adding another £235 for a visit.

Those £125 costs are now subject to judicial review in Nicolson v Tottenham Magistrates & The Borough of Haringey. Leave for judicial review was given by Judge Green on the 7th October.

NB. the council tax reduction scheme (CTRS) devised by local authorities replaced the council tax benefit (CTB) administered by central government in the Local Government Finance Act 2012.

In Haringey 20% of council tax was imposed on benefit claimants in work and unemployment from April 201

Article from “Local Government Lawyer”

Supreme Court to hand down key ruling next week on consultations
Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:07
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down next week (29 October) a key ruling on the proper approach to consultations.The case of R (on the application of Moseley (in substitution of Stirling) v London Borough of Haringey specifically considered consultations conducted under the Local Government Finance Act 1992 in respect of proposed ‘council tax reduction schemes. These schemes were introduced to replace council tax benefit.The appeal considered whether a fair consultation required that consultees be informed not just of the proposals of the local authority, but also of the reasons for the proposals.It also considered whether consultees should be given sufficient information to enable them to critically examine the thinking that led to the proposals.

The case arose out of Haringey’s consultation upon its council tax reduction scheme. The Government subsequently announced a Transitional Grant Scheme (TGS) but the authority adopted its council tax reduction scheme without re-consultation.

Haringey argued that the Transitional Grant Scheme did not affect the draft scheme.

The local authority won in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal in February 2013.

Before the Supreme Court, the appellant argued that the consultation process was unfair and unlawful because:

  • Consultees had not been provided with sufficient information to understand that there were alternatives to the draft scheme; and
  • Haringey should have re-consulted when the Transitional Grant Scheme was announced.

A five-justice panel of the Supreme Court – comprising Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson and Lord Reed – heard the case on 19 June.

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=20533%3Asupreme-court-to-hand-down-key-ruling-next-week-on-consultations&catid=59&Itemid=27