Hundreds of ‘struggling’ Brent residents taken to court over council tax arrears
PUBLISHED: 13:34 20 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:34 20 August 2014
More than 600 Brent residents were summoned to Willesden Magistrate Court yesterday for falling behind on their council tax payments.
Protesters demonstrated outside the court, in High Road, Willesden, condemning the action, in which they claim leaves already financially-strapped residents saddled with further debts due to court costs of £90 added to each bill.
Sarah Cox, of Brent Fightback and Brent Housing Action, said: “Some of these people are scrapping by and they can’t afford the extra burden of paying the tax, and the extra courts costs on top of that.”
Since April last year, all residents of working age must make a contribution to their bills after the government abolished the benefit scheme and replaced it by putting the control in the hands of local authorities.
However pensioners are exempt.
Brent Council claim the changes left them with a £6m black hole to plug which meant they had to rewrite the eligibility rules.
“Ms Cox continued: “I do not think it is fair because these are people who did not have to pay council tax before. The council should spend more energy in helping these people, not summonsing to court.”
The council claim they made every attempt to contact residents, including calling on evening and weekends, sending texts and personalised emails before issuing the summons.
Cllr Roxanne Mashari, Brent Council’s lead member for employment and skills, said: “Council tax summonses are only issued as a last resort when non-payers have not engaged with the council.”
“We are tackling those people who won’t pay, not those who can’t pay. “
“We have support mechanisms in place to help those in genuine hardship and would encourage anyone struggling to pay their council tax to contact us as soon as possible or ring 0208 937 1790 to discuss their circumstances with us”
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