Monday, 9 June 2014

Theft on a massive scale

The reason I have a criminal record is because, according to a judge, I am supposed to surrender to fraudsters making unlawful demands rather than cutting off a wheel clamp with an angle grinder. My own view of what constitutes a "reasonable act" differs in that I do not think that bailiffs should be allowed to get away with this - and I do not think councils should be turning a blind eye to it. There is also the issue of theft writ large by councils who charge obscene and unlawful fees for the act of sending a letter to those in council tax arrears.

We are told that councils only resort to bailiffs as a last resort, but today we (yet again) learn from the Money Advice Trust that this simply isn't true.  According to the their findings, Birmingham City Council was shown to have referred the largest number of debts to bailiffs (on 82,329 occasions) in 2013, accounting for 17 per cent of properties in the city. That's £4.5m in liability order charges in one authority alone. There is an automatic assumption of guilt and greedy councils are using poverty as a revenue stream.

Not for the first time I have written to three local councilors on this matter using figures obtained from South Gloucestershire Council on this very issue.
Dear Adam Monk, Roger Hutchinson and Ian Scott,

A Freedom of Information request this morning reveals that South Gloucestershire Council netted £412,22 last year in "costs" from council tax Liability Orders. The council charges £55 for the act of sending a letter. 7,495 of them. The law allows only for "reasonable costs", but councils clearly disregard this and use arrears as a source of revenue. Further to this, it has also collected nearly £10k in credit card surcharges on those payments. This isn't right.

New figures have revealed between January and March, one in five people reporting debt problems to Citizens Advice had a council tax arrears issue. In the first three months of this year 27,000 people with a council tax arrears problem got help from Citizens Advice – a 17% increase on the same period last year. Councils are causing more debt problems than pay-day loan companies.

While council tax benefit changes have caused an upsurge in council tax arrears, councils have the authority to write this off and make cuts elsewhere.  But if SGC does intend to collect this money, there is certainly no way that sending a letter costs £55, and if anything, economies of scale should mean those costs go down significantly. Councils should not be pushing the poorest deeper into debt and profiteering from it.

Moreover, it does not cost councils anything to chase up late payments because councils themselves do not do the chasing. They instead subcontract to the multi-million pound enforcement industry who are allowed by law to charge £310 simply for knocking on the door. There is big money to be made from council tax arrears and it is a handy source of income for councils and bailiffs alike. This is dishonest, amoral and parasitic.

Yours sincerely,

Peter North.
Not a single one of them has replied. I have also asked the Communities Minister, Brandon Lewis,  directly for a response.  He also did not see fit to reply. Every council is engaged in a mass theft against the people and our so-called democratic representatives are not in the least bit interested.

I have been reporting on this for years now and have since taken the view that if councils are going to charge us council tax then it is our duty to make it cost them more to collect it. When the authorities investigate themselves and find themselves innocent and police feel free to pass the buck, there is nothing left in the "reasonable" inventory for ordinary citizens.

It is interesting that the magistrates court where I was originally convicted lost a days trade last week due to an arson attack. I don't know what the motive behind this is, but I suspect it is some other citizen who has been treated in a shoddy way by the justice system, which in itself is not fit for purpose. One does not go to these lengths without a feeling of being wronged.

This sort of action does not surprise me. When the system is as bent out of shape as it is, with zero legal protection and no democratic resource, fear is a weapon to which the ordinary citizen will resort. They treat us with contempt because they do not fear us - so those who want change can hardly be blamed if they use the tools available to them. They realise that fear is the only language their persecutors understand.


  1. The £millions obtained from the Council Tax court costs racket is phenomenal. That's why the government is fixing cases to back council's decisions never to reveal their true expenditure.

    The commentary throughout ¡¡¡this judgment!!! (Final Decision – Information Rights Tribunal) has a tone wholly of the Tribunal representing the Information Commissioner than arbitrator.

  2. Birmingham City Council (and every other local authority) plays a key role in exploiting council tax liability order proceedings to force householders to fund Magistrates' courts.

    However, more worrying is that this funding is deceitfully taken from unsuspecting council taxpayers who have never been late with (let alone missed) a payment.

    Birmingham City Council residents unwittingly funded HMCTS last year alone with £1.3 million through this scam. You do, however, need to take a close look at the sleight of hand which enables them to pull this off:

    £1.3 million discrepancy in Council Tax Magistrates' court costs