Protest to take place outside court after town hall summons 3,000 people over unpaid Council Tax bills in Brent
PUBLISHED: 16:34 04 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:14 05 November 2013
Town hall bosses have issued 3,000 residents with court summons after they failed to pay their council tax following changes to their benefit entitlement.
The news has angered residents who plan to hold a protest outside Willesden Magistrates’ Court tomorrow morning as the hearings take place.
Since April this 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, Brent Council claim the changes resulted with a £6m black hole which meant they had to rewrite the eligibility rules.
While pensioners are exempt, residents on low wages who would previously qualify for Council Tax Benefit were no longer entitled.
Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, told the Times the summons had been issued to residents who refused to correspond with them.
He said: “I know it seems heavy handed but it is a last ditch attempt for people who don’t understand the ramifications of what they are doing.
“We have a payment scheme where they can pay as little as £3 or £4 a week.
“If they work with us we can help them through a number of measures including debt advice. We are doing all we can to do make them realise we are here to help.”
However, Pilgrim Tucker from Unite Community, is organising the protest along with Brent Housing Action, Kilburn Unemployed Workers’ Group and the West London Peoples’ Assembly, said the action has left some residents scared.
She said: “The leader of Brent has said that the council is using a court summons as a way of ‘engaging’ with residents. It’s not good enough, many people are scared, may not have good literacy skills, or are confused by the changes. Most importantly they simply can’t pay.
“The amount of money the council is spending on ‘engaging’ with residents will ending up costing as much as the original cut in the central government grant.
“The only real way to help these people is to waive the charge.”
The number of people summoned to court represents approximately one per cent of the borough’s 312,000 residents.
Sujata Aurora, from Brent Housing Action, has accused the council of profiteering from their action.
She said: “The council have added £90 costs to each bill when the cost of issuing a court summons is more like £3.
“In many cases this £90 charge will double the existing debt. It makes a mockery of the council’s claim that the court action is a last ditch attempt to communicate.”
The protest will be taking place outside Willesden Magistrates’ Court tomorrow at 9am.
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