Friday 17 August 2012

Brighton Greens Respond to Criticism over Jailing of 80 Year Old

The Green Party have responded to criticism for the jailing of an 80 year old for non-payment of council tax (click here for article). They justified it by saying it was the courts decision, not theirs, in words Pontius Pilate would have been proud of, they assure us that , "The council does not send non-payers to jail: it refers them to the magistrates' court which then decides what action to take."!

They went on to explain "To attribute the sentence of magistrates' court to the council is to misunderstand the legal process involved." This may satisfy the council's conscience, but getting the courts to do their dirty work does nothing to muddy the water: the council is responsible. 

However according to a recent Local Government Ombudsman report on recovering council tax from non-payers (A vicious report which elsewhere says "We will not criticise a council for using bankruptcy or other debt recovery methods if the decision to do so has been properly made."!!):

"A council can reduce council tax on a certain property to nil if it sees a good reason to do so." 

Why were these and similar powers not used?

The Greens have no qualms in enforcing their 'statutory duty' to collect council revenue in the face of government cuts to local government, and cuts to council tax benefit. In a recent seminar on the new scheme for council tax benefit a BH Council spokesman said they would 'have to' issue court proceedings to collect from non-payers.

Instead of springing to their knees before the government - who only need to raise an eyebrow for the Greens to fall into line - a campaign is needed to reject any future jailings and the hounding of non-payers. The courts and our front gardens may become a battleground once again. Otherwise, 'sadly, we will see more such cases'.

The council has to decide: fight the government, or fight the residents. They have chosen the latter.

We will soon have a petition online addressed to the council, calling on them not to cut council tax benefit, to reject the government cuts, and to build a movement to demand the lost funding is returned to Brighton and Hove (click here for details).