Haringey Council external auditors asked to investigate £125 costs to each of 27,882 summons for council tax arrears

Haringey Council’s external auditors asked to investigate the £125 costs charged against 27,882 late and non payers of council tax in 2013/14

I am asking Grant Thornton, the external auditors of Haringey Council’s accounts, to issue a report in the public interest about the £125 costs for summonses and liability orders imposed by Tottenham Magistrates at the request of Haringey Council (under section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998) and/or apply to the court for a declaration that £125 in the accounts since April 2010 is contrary to law (under section 17 of the Audit Commission Act 1998). Specifically I have asked them to investigate;

  1. Whether residents of Haringey have been penalised by more than a genuine and rational contribution to costs of council tax summonses and liability orders paid by all late and non-payers of council tax in 2013/14 and each year since 2008/9 and by how much?
  2. How many late payers of council tax, who paid in full on receiving summons to the magistrates’ court, have been penalised in 2013/14 and each year since 2008/9 by more than a genuine and rational contribution to costs and by how much.

And to make arrangements for all late and non-payers to be repaid the amounts they have been penalised in 2013/14 and each year since 2008/9.

Haringey claims that £125 costs were approved as reasonable costs by Deputy Justices Clerk,  on the 23rd March 2010.  That claim by Haringey is fictitious. Haringey asked HMCTS for the increase and it was approved, but there is no evidence that the Deputy Justices clerk approved £125 as reasonable. Several FOI questions to HMCTS confirm that there is no record of any steps taken  by the clerk to satisfy himself that the costs are reasonable. £125 was approved by HMCTS without any investigation by the Magistrates to satisfy themselves that they are reasonable.; they have been charged every year since without any review.

That case will be heard by the High Court on the 7th October. Mr Justice Foskett has already observed that that the case I “seek to make by way of costs in an individual case is at least one that ought to be aired and, since it affects a good many people,  ought in principle be aired.”

On the 2nd August 2013 at my liability order hearing I ask the Tottenham magistrates to explain how they arrived at a figure of £125 costs. They were unable to do so. I also explained in detail the caps and cuts by central government on top of which Haringey has imposed the council tax and the draconian and costly enforcement costs. Unreasonable costs merely add to the misery.

The same magistrates in the same Tottenham court  allow the next door Enfield Council to charge £70 for a summons and to add £25 if it goes to court for a liability order. But Haringey is allowed to charge £125 for the summons and nothing more if it goes to court. The difference £55 difference in costs for a summons should be explained to the residents of Haringey.

Other council’s charge two amounts;  Liability Order           Court Summons

Canterbury City Council                              £50                             £50
London Borough of Brent                           £30                             £90
Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council           £42                             £42
London Borough of Bromley                      £20                             £75
Powys County Council                                £50                             £10
Braintree District Council                          £30                             £65
Sheffield City Council                                  £28                             £46
Wolverhampton City Council                    £40                             £36
Dover District Council                                 £50                             £50
Rotherham District Council                       £20                             £80

LETTER TO HARINGEYS EXTERNAL AUDITORS.

 

Brooks Newark branded patronising after he told charities to “stick to their knitting” and keep out of politics.

CHARITIES, KNITTING AND DEMOCRACY

David Cameron’s new minister for civil society, Brooks Newark, has been branded patronising and dismissive after he told charities to “stick to their knitting” and keep out of politics.

LETTERS IN THE GUARDIAN TODAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2014

My charity knitting began in the 1990s, helping people who could not afford their poll tax. Around 5,000 people were sent to prison by the magistrates for non-payment. Over 1,000 of those imprisonments were found to be unlawful by the high court. Cases which included a couple in their 80s, who were incontinent in court, another pensioner with her Zimmer frame and a single mother who owed only £20.

Then a vicar in the Chilterns, and chair of a charity, I attacked the Tory government for introducing such flagrantly unjust laws. That rang a bell in the mind of Michael Heseltine, a nearby Conservative MP for Henley on Thames until 2001, who set about abolishing the dreaded tax. Long may charity knitting involve telling the uncomfortable truth to power.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/04/charities-knitting-democracy-brooks-newmark

UNIVERSAL DESPAIR housing benefit to be sanctioned by universal credit no wonder Scots vote yes against Westminster

 

UNIVERSAL DESPAIR

DWP makes the point for a “yes” vote in Scotland by announcing “Part-time workers judged to be doing too little to find full-time work face having their benefit for housing costs sanctioned by the government for the first time under universal credit. ‘It is only right that people claiming benefits should be aware that not sticking to the rules can have a consequence. Any reductions to benefits as a result of a sanction are applied to the universal credit benefit as a whole rather than a particular element of it,’ say Ministers. 

Yesterday 2nd September 2014 The Times published the following letter. It was the lead letter. I became and associate of the Iona Community in the 1990s which, since its foundation on the Isle of Iona in 1938, has been committed to peace and justice.

DEEP DIVISIONS HAVE BEEN EXPOSED BY BOTH THE “YES” AND “NO” CAMPAIGNS .

Sir, Magnus Linklater (Opinion, Sept 1) is right. Deep divisions have been exposed by both the Yes and No campaigns and opened up wounds which will be hard to heal. The Church of Scotland decided to remain neutral, but influential members of the Kirk deeply committed to social justice, including the leader of the Iona Community Peter MacDonald, are expressing the concerns shared by many of us who work with and for the poorest citizens of England and voting yes.

He said: “I no longer believe the Westminster government is capable of delivering the socially just and equitable society in which I want to live. The British state no longer serves the needs of all its people. Economic policies have favoured the wealthy who have grown richer, and stigmatised the poor and vulnerable who are paying for the failures of the private financial sector.” Even if Scotland votes No the wounds will remain unhealed north and south of the border until confidence of every UK citizen in the fairness of the Westminster government is restored.

The Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

WESTMINSTER GOVERNMENT NO LONGER CAPABLE OF DELI​VERING SOCIALLY JUST EQUITABLE SOCIETY, CHURCH OF SCOTLAND LEADERS.

WESTMINSTER GOVERNMENT IS NO LONGER CAPABLE OF  DELIVERING  A SOCIALLY JUST AND EQUITABLE SOCIETY – CHURCH OF SCOTLAND LEADERS.

If the people of Scotland vote ​”​yes​”​ then the coalition will have done much to encourage that result. The unequal imposition of austerity since 2010 has been noticed by voters north of the border.The Church of Scotland has decided to remain neutral,​ ​but influential members of the Kirk deeply committed to social justice, including the leader of the Iona Community Peter MacDonald, are expressing the concerns of many of us who work​ ​with and for the poorest citizens of England, and voting yes.

He said “I no longer believe the Westminster Government is capable of delivering the socially just and equitable society in which I want to live. The British state no longer serves the needs of all its people. Economic policies have favoured the wealthy who have grown richer, and stigmatised the poor and vulnerable who are paying for the failures of the private financial sector.”

​If Scotland votes “no” these failings of the Westminster Government ​will still exist.

Rev Paul Nicolson

TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THE CHURCHES COMPLICIT IN THE POOR BECOMING MUCH POORER IN THE UK?

Letter in The Tablet – 30th August 2014
Promises, promises
28 August 2014

Your leader (23 August) states that “Promises don’t put food on the table.” The uncomfortable question is: to what extent are the Churches complicit in the poor becoming much poorer? The demand for food banks and credit unions can only increase until the Churches apply the preferential option for the poor, understand their circumstances and tackle the cumulative impact of decades of structural injustice.

Perhaps our ineffectiveness is because so many members of Christian congregations do not understand the impact of being made homeless by a local authority, moved into private rented accommodation and being obliged to move eight times since 2002. That happened to a single mother with three young children I have met. Or the impact of having their benefit income capped at £500 a week, which caps housing benefit at 50p and forces them to pay £282 a week of that £500 in rent, like a single mother with seven young children I have also met.

Christianity needs bishops who speak up for the poor and against oppression in the UK

Christianity needs bishops who speak up for the poor and against oppression in the UK

Written in response to a Guardian Leader on 24th August 

Liberation theology cannot be picked up from South America and planted in the UK. But its method of doing theology – from the perspective of the poor, studying the facts and being shocked by their circumstances – can be. Leonardo Boff, silenced by the Vatican in 1992, wrote: “The central question is how to exercise faith in the midst of social oppression. How should the ecclesiastical community interact with the political community?”

The short answer to Boff’s question (posed in an essay, The Originality of Liberation Theology, in The Future Of Liberation Theology: Essays In Honour of Gustavo Gutiérrez, published in 1989) is with and for poor people who suffer innocently. That is done out of the love inspired by the innocent suffering of our founder, who joined them on a cross.

Our first-world churches are complicit with extreme free-market politics and do not reflect, in the light of our faith, on the oppression done in the name of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Our ineffectiveness can be measured by the increasing oppression of the poorest citizens in the UK.

We desperately need bishops and archbishops who will interact with the political community and the public in the manner of Oscar Romero. He famously said: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist. When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980, the eve of the enthronement of Robert Runcie as archbishop of Canterbury.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

PS The famous statement “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist” is also attributed to Helda Camara another bishop fighting oppression. The WWW has both him and Oscar Romero saying it. The one I picked was on Cafod’s websitehttp://www.cafod.org.uk/News/UK-News/Volunteer-Week-thank-you, “My Favorite quote is by the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, who said: “When I give food to the poor they call me a Saint, when I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist” but that is probably wrong!!.

Letter in The Guardian 20th August 2014

Strongly recommend a read of all the letters under the same heading.

FAMILIES AT THE FRONT OF THE PM’s MIND

The dreaded Tina – “there is no alternative” – has spooked ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions into the mantra that the bedroom tax is absolutely necessary to get the housing benefit under control (Woman killed herself after worries about bedroom tax, 13 August). No matter that they were warned that the stress of demanding both bedroom tax rent up to £24 a week and council tax up to £8 a week from single adults receiving £72.40 jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA) or income support from April 2013 would lead to suicide.

During the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 they were sent a case reported by the local government ombudsman in 2001 of a single, semi-literate adult living alone in Southwark (and 30 other debt-related suicides). Jobcentre Plus mistakenly cancelled his JSA, so Southwark cancelled his housing and council tax benefits, creating arrears in both accounts. Southwark’s outsourced agent sent him a summons for unpaid council tax of £235.10, plus costs.

The summons (about 3m of which are dispatched a year) contains the following threats, in bold type and highlighted: “The council will be able to … instruct bailiffs to take your goods to settle your debt – this can include your car. You will be liable to pay the bailiffs’ costs which could substantially increase the debt. Instruct your employer to deduct payments from your salary or wages. Deduct money straight from your jobseeker’s allowance or income support. Make you bankrupt. Make a charging order against your home. Have you committed to prison.”

His body was found hanging in his flat. The police found the summons with him, paper littered with rough calculations and a note: “Dear … I at to do this I am in so much in Detr good By for ever Love …”

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty