The Independent London Newspaper
19th December 2014

Letters

Council take 2,569 of poorest residents to court over unpaid tax

    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.”

    Comments

    Council Tax Collection

    The thing is with CT collection is that the council will and does come after you even if the sum owed is quite low, as I had experience of a few years back. But the proper procedures should be followed ie warning letters first.

    Couldn't the political activists set up a hardship fund to help people affected by rent rebate subsidy reduction (bedroom tax) and council tax?

    In times like these I think affected people need more than protests and lobbying - they need immediate help and I don't see why those who are so active protesting against Tory policies can't put their hands in their pockets (if they have some spare cash) to help out those they are campaigning on behalf of - any reasons why they can't or shouldn't?

    Tracy Morgan

    Court Summons

    Camden Council issued me a summons to court as I had missed two payments, from oversight not attempting to avoid. The approximate amount outstanding was £16. There was zero attempt to collect this amount prior to the summons and the cost of issuing that was an added £100. Therefore a constructive attempt to create a large debt for me. I argued with Camden and at the offer of paying one full year contribution (£84) they rescinded the summons and charge. Disgusting behaviour.

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