Boatman faces tax nightmare

A DISABLED man has been hit with council tax bills worth thousands of pounds and threatened with bailiffs despite being exempt.

A DISABLED man has been hit with council tax bills worth thousands of pounds and threatened with bailiffs despite being exempt.

Mitchell Smith, lives on a barge on the Grand Union Canal, near Scrubs Lane, Park Royal, and so is liable to British Waterways (BW) for a mooring permit and water license, which he paid between 2001 and 2008.

But since applying for housing benefit after being made redundant at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, Mr Smith has received �750 council tax bills and threats of bailiffs removing his property.

Mr Smith said: “Somebody somewhere must have decided I was a houseboat and backdated the bills to 2008. But it’s like speaking to a brick wall. I just hope BW and the Council speak to each other.”


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Due to a dispute, reported in the Times last week, between BW and Mr Smith over ownership of some land; BW have failed to provide H&F Council with the necessary invoices.

BW says Mr Smith has no legal right to be there.

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Subsequently H&F Council have been unable to process his housing benefit claim to cover the �1,400 mooring permit and boating license.

Mr Smith said: “I’ve been asking for housing benefit since 2008 when I was made redundant to help me with my license and mooring permit. Housing agreed providing BW gives them the paperwork and invoices which they have refused to do, so housing haven’t been able to pay so I have been illegal for two and half years.”

A spokeswoman for BW said: “We wouldn’t send an invoice to someone we are in dispute with over whether they are there legally but this case is with our legal team and so we can’t comment specifically.”

Tom Skewis, Mr Smith’s legal advocate, said: “The question is who authorised H&F to change Mitchell Smith’s status from a boat to a house boat. At best this is maladministration.”

A spokesman for H&F said: “Mr Smith has to pay council tax as he lives on a permanently-moored boat. As soon as the council became aware that Mr Smith was living on the river we started to charge him accordingly.”

However, H&F Council failed to say who authorised the change in status.

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