Published: 01 August, 2013
by TOM FOOT
THE Town Hall has issued 2,569 court summons to some of Camden’s poorest tenants hit by a cut in council tax relief in the last four months.
Government cuts to council funding has led the Town Hall to start collecting a contribution from 16,000 tenants who did not have to pay council tax before April.
The removal of the Council Tax Benefit (CTB) fund, worth £2.7million, means they have been asked to pay around £80-£150 per year.
Finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said: “The government’s taken away the safety net for the very poorest households, forcing them to pay a proportion of Council Tax for the first time.
“This will add to the debts of the least well off and force the council into expensive court proceedings.”
Described as a “small amount” by the council, tenants who have received court summons have told the New Journal the charge was pushing them into abject poverty.
Several said they have struggled to find ways of paying the new charge. Some are living on less than £50 for a fortnight, after paying basic bills.
Housing campaigner Petra Dando said: “The situation is nothing less than horrendous and to many tenants on the ground, any course of action being supported by Camden’s Labour Party does little to differentiate it from a party working hand in hand with this government to attack some of the poorest and most vulnerable tenants in society.”
Under council rules, if a resident misses or is late with council tax payment the first time they get a reminder. If they do it again, they receive a final reminder. After that they receive a court summons.
A council spokesman said this can happen on more than one occasion throughout the year.
For the 2012-2013 tax year, Camden issued 17,976 summonses. In three months since this April, 8,201 have already been issued, of which 2,569 are for people affected by cuts to CTB.
Conservative Belsize ward Cllr Jonny Bucknell said: “The amounts are not big so I don’t understand why this has caused such a huge rise in summonses.
“It’s absolutely vital that the council looks into the individual cases and reaches these people before it gets to the summons stage.
"The government has a tough remit, but if this is making things worse for people in genuine hardship then I am happy to lobby for amendments.”