Council Tax and the Law


Council Tax and the Law:
The Off-White Though Still Very Sharp
Teeth of the British State
By David Webb

I sent a long email to a Conservative councillor about council tax summons – and the way they are automated by the council computer system without judicial oversight (a magistrate has to review the evidence before each summons is sent out – pretty impossible when 4m of these summons are being sent out a year – I don’t expect there is even a pro forma attempt at getting the summons signed off by the courts; I expect the courts have ‘agreed’ that the council computers should just send out summons letters without judicial oversight); the way in which council tax cases in magistrates courts are illegally conducted by council officials with no magistrates present; and the way in which £70 is charged for the summons although the summons costs £3 [NE Lincolnshire,  a neighbouring area, made £174000 in half an hour from these £70  fees recently  by summoning thousands of people to court for one hearing, and  only 14 turned  up – there is no indication that only ‘reasonable costs’ are  charged].

The councillor is a former magistrate and told me on the phone that I am a customer of the council. When I said “I want to take my custom elsewhere; I don’t want to be their customer”, she replied “if you’re disputing the right to levy council tax, it all becomes much more complicated” and sent me a meaningless one sentence email on the subject. The following three emails are the correspondence between me and the councillor. I deleted my phone number and address and council tax reference number.

1. 16 December, my email to a Conservative councillor:

Dear Mrs Xxxxxx,

I have £152 in council tax arrears that I want to pay off in January when I will have the money to pay it. I got a letter dated Monday 12th December to tell me to pay within 7 days or a final reminder would come, and 7 days after that I would have to pay a £70 court summons fee on top.

That takes my final date to pay the £152 to Boxing Day, 26th December. Don’t you think it is a little strange to send out these reminders with menacing threats days before Christmas? I phoned up and told the Council Tax department that I will pay in January, but the lady was very unhelpful. The £70 fee is almost half of my arrears!

My concerns relate to the fee and the way in which council tax summons are generated. I have read a lot online about this, and I know that the fee for the summons charged by the court is just £3. The Council Tax Enforcement Regulations 1992 allow “reasonable costs” to be recovered by the council, but the additional £67 added on top is very excessive for a couple of computer-generated letters.

Councils typically reply to Freedom of Information requests to say that the Courts Service has approved the £70 fee. But the Courts Service has no judicial role – only the Crown Court could hand down a judgement on whether the £70 fee constituted reasonable costs or not, and the clerks in the Courts Service cannot hand down any such ruling. To my knowledge no one has contested this in Crown Court, because it would cost thousands to do so, but it is claimed by various online sites that councils up and down the land are making £200m a year from such “court summons costs”.

For a start, the £70 is the same in nearly all councils – and yet the recovery costs must vary widely between councils. Secondly, much of the recovery costs are captured by council employees’ wages. Either way, £70 for a couple of letters is very expensive. While the councils do submit the information they have to the court clerks to rubber stamp, they do so in bulk, with thousands of cases being stamped by the court at the same time, making it questionable whether the councils are really incurring £70 a pop. It seems the councils are making an additional £70 off the most financially pressed people in their boroughs, with no real judicial oversight as to the level of costs.

I would like the council to simply agree that I can pay what I owe in the first half of January, with no court summons. Can you ask the revenue department to agree to this?

I haven’t had my summons yet, but I understand it will be sent out after Boxing Day. A nice New Year present to arrive days before I would settle the so-called bill anyway. My concerns also relate to the way in which councils – and not courts – send out these summons to magistrates’ courts. They are actually being computer-generated. You might think that reasonable given that thousands of such letters do go out. But magistrates’ summons are meant to be judicial and not administrative processes. Looking at case law, a court case from 1975 relating to such summons was R. v. Brentford Justices ex parte Catlin, where Lord Chief Justice Widgery stated “a decision by magistrates whether to issue a summons pursuant to information laid involves the exercise of a judicial function, and is not merely administrative.” See All England Law Reports [1975] 2 All ER QBD p206-207 (I am attaching a word document with scan-in of those pages from the law reports for you to read).

Lord Chief Justice Widgery was ruling on the affixing of a judge’s signature by rubber stamp – and magistrates’ summons issued by the council are not individually signed by judges, and so a rubber stamp or photocopy is used. He said:

“It is perfectly proper for a signature to be affixed by way of rubber stamp, whether applied by the justice or by a clerk or an employee of the magistrates’ clerk with the authority, general or specific, of the justice, and that conclusion, but for one matter, would be sufficient in my view to dispose of this application, because assuming that an information was indeed laid before the justice whose signature in facsimile form subsequently appeared on the summons then all the applicant’s attack on the subsequent proceedings would fall to the ground straight away and it would not be necessary to consider the other points raised in this application. However in this case it may be that, as the applicant I think wished this court to infer from the document before it, the justice before whom the information was originally laid was not the one whose signature appeared on the summons in facsimile form, and indeed I think the applicant would go further and say that this court should infer in all the circumstances of this case and proceeded on the basis that no information was ever placed before any justice prior to the issue of the summons; the summons was a mere creature of a clerk in the magistrates’ court office. It is not necessary to embark on an examination of that aspect of the matter; indeed this court would be quite unable to do so in view of the material before it, but counsel for the justices conceded certainly that if the summons had come into existence in the manner which I last referred to, namely as a purely administrative operation without any information being laid, then the summons would be bad … before a summons or warrant is issued the information must be laid before a magistrate and he must go through the judicial exercise of deciding whether a summons or warrant ought to be issued or not. If a magistrate authorises the issue of a summons without having applied his mind to the information then he is guilty of dereliction of duty and if in any particular justices’ clerk’s office a practice goes on of summonses being issued without information being laid before the magistrate at all, then a very serious instance of maladministration arises which should have the attention of the authorities without delay”.

These summonses are issued by the council’s computer. It is not credible to believe that a magistrate has reviewed the information before the computer sends out the letter. The court cases are handled in great bulk – thousands at a time, and I believe this is just an administrative summons, with no judicial aspect at all. It may be that magistrates have given images of their signatures to West Lindsey Council for the computer to use to generate summonses, as council tax case summonses are issued by the council, and not by the court, tending to show that there is no real judicial oversight. No magistrate has the legal right to give West Lindsey Council the power to issue summonses without proper adjudication in each case, by a magistrate (and not by the magistrate’s clerk or the council computer system), of whether there is grounds to issue a summons in the first place. While the clerk may affix the signature by rubber stamp, or the computer simply paste in a facsimile of the signature, there must be a real live magistrate reviewing the summons before it is sent out. I do not believe that to be the case.

When people go to court for council-tax cases, they are met at court by council officials, who try to prevent them from seeing the magistrates. While the summons claims to be a magistrate’s summons, it is printed by the council and the council conduct their own court, with no magistrate present, at the magistrates’ court! Court ushers try to persuade anyone who wants to see the magistrate that it will take many hours to see the magistrate, and so it is quicker to go to the ‘court’ being held by council officials!! Court ushers are actually obstructing the judicial process (a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice) and trying to prevent people from seeing the magistrates. Of course this is done because of the huge volume of cases.

To show how this works, I want to give an example from NE Lincolnshire, but it is the same thing for West Lindsey too.

I read of a case by a man who was summonsed over the council tax issued by NE Lincolnshire – 3,359 were summonsed all to arrive at 2pm on June 2nd, 2011! Of course, most didn’t turn up, and those who did were directed into the kangaroo court illegally conducted by council officials, and only 2 people insisted on seeing the magistrate, which they did at 4:30pm that day! You can read about this at the following web link: http://www.crazycouncil.co.uk/forum/council-taxc-issuse/an-afternoon-at-grimsbys-magistrates-court-for-alleged-non-payment-of-council-tax .

So the fact that so many thousands are summonsed at once and that court officials do their best to stop them from seeing the magistrates shows that these summons are purely administrative and not judicial – which is illegal according to Lord Chief Justice Widgery. Also NE Lincolnshire made £174,000 from the £70 costs charged for each person – in just half an hour in court, as 3,359 were dealt with in one fell swoop, most of whom were paying a £70 fee, and only 2 actually seeing the magistrate. Isn’t it obvious that NE Lincolnshire did not incur £174,000 of costs for their 30 minute court hearing (which council officials conducted themselves without magistrates present)?

Can you,

  1. Ask if I can pay my bill in January [I don’t recognise the legality of
    council tax, given that the Queen broke her Coronation Oath when
    she authorised various EU treaties, and that she refused to
    respond to the committee of Barons who asked her to restore the
    constitution within 40 days, as specified under Magna Carta,
    1215, but I will pay as I have no choice].
  2. Obtain a full breakdown of the £70 court summons fee.
  3. Find out if a magistrate personally authorises every single summons that the council send out.
  4. Find out the council’s view on the legal basis of the council impersonating a magistrate’s court in sending out summons.

Thank you and regards,

David Webb.

2. 18 December, her email in reply.

Dear Mr Webb

Thank you for your email which I have now read.

Please let me know the outcome of your visit to the Council Tax Office at the Guildhall in Gainsborough

Best wishes

Gill Xxxxxx

3. 18 December, my reply.

Mrs Xxxxxx,

You have not answered any of the points I made. You probably wish to brush them aside as you are a former magistrate and are a public-sector employee who earns a good salary and a pension from the council tax paid by people who have no pension provision for themselves. I regret the way that councillors all receive salaries now, as it gets them “in” on the system: councillors like you are now uniformly pro-fraud and pro-embezzlement, which is what council tax is. Can you tell me during your time as magistrate, did you personally punish individuals who received administrative summons? [I mean summons sent out by the council  computers  without judicial oversight]. Or did you point out to the councils during your time as magistrate that it is illegal for the council to send out automated summons pretending they have been reviewed by a magistrate first? During your time as magistrate, did you do anything to prevent council officials from conducting illegal “courts” in court buildings with no magistrates present? Or were you “in on the scam”, viewing your role as magistrate as to let the council do what they want and to do whatever the council told you to do? Did you as magistrate prevent councils from charging fees, misrepresented as court costs, to turn council tax summons into a large illegal revenue stream? We don’t have the rule of law in this country any more, and your response to me on the phone made it clear to me that you are pro-State and in favour of the state’s exactions. I expect you are rather contemptuous of the common law and not interested in opening any issue that would raise questions over your behaviour as magistrate. “Dereliction of duty” in the words of Lord Chief Justice Widgery!

Quite!

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17 responses to “Council Tax and the Law

  1. Mark Rousell writes:

    This is very interesting. This (criminal) bypassing of the law for convenience (the convenience of the state and the state bureaucracy) is deeply worrying.

    I’d love to think that if was brought to wider public attention that the public would be concerned and would protest. It would be an ideal and highly effective route for (completely legal) civil disobedience. But I am sorry to say that most people just won’t care. They are too lazy and/or too disinterested to care or get involved. (E.g. “it’s nothing to do with me”, “the state is not a real threat”, “it can’t happen here”, “it’s not true”, “it’s purely procedural”, “someone else will take care of it”, etc.).

    The state bureaucracy and the individuals within it have discovered that they can get away with more and more because people either do not, or cannot, hold them to genuine account.

    That said, I suspect that David Webb was foolish to attack the councillor in the third email. Whilst he is no doubt correct in his assessment, it would gave been strategically better to get her onside and try to build up a head of political steam and publicity.

    Team building (even if you despite the other members of the team and intend to dispose of them later!) is likely to be more effective then attacking possible allies (no matter how richly deserved).

  2. I feel your frustration. It may interest you that I disputed my council tax last year on the following grounds
    1) The Government has violated the Bill of Rights by joining the EU, and that, whilst this treaty was in effect, the contract between myself and the state – for my affairs to be governed by them – was void, and, therefore, as a Breach of Trust had taken place I could not possibly do business with them, else my good name would fall into dishonour.
    2) that 75 % of Council Tax was unaccountable, and that, following correspondances, they had not confirmed what the 75 % was going towards paying.
    3) That a Demand Notice was simply a forceful request, to which I have the right to refuse.

    Following a lengthy discussion, the council refused to rebut my claims and promptly ceased collection.

    I also know of councils acting fraudulently, by sending out Summonses and Court Orders that are not lawfully executed, and I have known of others who have disputed this in court and won.

    I hope this will be of help. Thank you for your post.

  3. Pingback: Council Tax and the Law | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG | www.kotisearch.com

  4. I don’t think the councillor could be ‘got’ onside. I will probably pay the £152 next week to avoid a £70 charge – although I would like to make the points I made to a magistrate, but I doubt a magistrate would be interested. The councillor had already indicated on the phone that she was not interested in anything along the lines of ‘my right not to be a customer of the council’, and she ignored all my points in my email. I think conservatives have wasted a lot of time on pro-Establishment people who always are not as good as they claim to be for us. I went to see my MP, Edward Leigh during the election, and he was a passionate supporter of state spending, including a supporter of such things like the Commission for Racial Equality. She was not really a possible ally – we always get that wrong! She is almost certainly someone who has handed down numerous liability orders to people who have not paid the council tax. Don’t forget 4 million of these orders are going out every year – it is a key part of the magistrates’ job, as they see it, to enforce the gravy train for their chums. 4 million a year! It ought to be front page news!

  5. Sorry to hear about these problems. But basically you’re up against a brick wall. The law is whatever those with power in administrating it think it is, that’s the bottom line.

    I think there’s an unfortunate idea developed in our society, perhaps due to the likes of Perry Mason, that one can win a stunning victory by legal arguments. This isn’t really true. What matters is power, and they have it and we don’t, and as I said the law is whatever those with the power over it think it is.

    Take as an example the bizarre Uman Rights legiislation we all complain about. There is nothing actually wrong with the wording of the ECHR, that “everyone has the right to a family life”. That is in fact quite a reasonable statement. What causes the trouble is judges choosing to interpret that as meaning that you can’t deport foreign murderers or whatnot.

    I tend to think a war of words like this is no more constructive than an argument on a blog. Nobody’s going to change their minds. I should say though, being in financial straits myself for some time now, that my own council are pretty good if you ring up and say, “I can’t pay now, can I pay in two weeks time?”, so long as you stick to whatever agreement you’ve made. But I daresay it varies a lot from council to council.

    Best of luck with this.

  6. I agree with Ian B. You can win personal victories at the margin – for example, getting a summons struck out because it carries the wrong date or signature, or getting off a speeding fine by getting a Russian friend to own up to being the driver of your car. But, when it comes to striking down a whole branch of state extortion or control, the wording of the law doesn’t come into it. It may be that everything done to us since about 1970 has been “unconstitutional,” so far as it breaches the wording of some supposedly final declaration of rights made between 1215 and 1689, or conflicts with what was once our normal expectations of government. What really matters, however, is who has the guns and the will to use them.

    Bad luck to all about being hard up. The last time I had a bad patch, the council was quite accommodating about time. The real pigs are the largely Scotch Customs and Revenue enforcers. I had a most impertinent call last February. It began with the gloating threat of bailiffs and got progressively worse – all for an underpayment of £500.

  7. >>>I think there’s an unfortunate idea developed in our society, perhaps due to the likes of Perry Mason, that one can win a stunning victory by legal arguments. This isn’t really true. What matters is power, and they have it and we don’t, and as I said the law is whatever those with the power over it think it is.
    ============

    Yes, Ian, you’re right. There is an important principle about abuse of power. I watched a wonderful full-costume video of Elizabeth Gaitskell’s North and South. In it, the master of the cotton mill beat one of his workers, and the lady he fancied protested, “you beat a man who was not your equal”. You would have to be a Victorian to get the point: someone in power was not equal to his workers, but by the same token that put the onus on him to be careful not to abuse his power over them. Nowadays in our “egalitarian” society, the consideration to use power with discretion has gone out of the window.

    Yes, Sean, the Freeman on the Land thing ignores the fact that if large numbers of council tax orders were being struck out for technical reasons – they would just pass a statute to “legalise” current practices. The issue of whether statute law can obliterate the common law is an interesting one – it is clear that it was not always held that it could (see Sir Edward Coke and Dr. Bonham’s Case, where he held that statute law could not override the common law, a case quoted approvingly in courts until the early 1700s), but from Blackstone onwards it has been held that it can, and while I feel the time-immemorial rights of the people cannot be ridden over roughshod, those with the guns disagree.

  8. THen, perhaps, if we could get our guns back, would the buggers then agree with us? I predict so. (But I don’t expect it’ll happen any time soon.)

  9. Yes, David Davis, you have stumbled on my own chosen solution too! OK, that’s two of us to man the barricades! And where there are two, there must be more!

  10. Polystyrene Anchor

    Increasingly, government departments are attaining the very fashionable “agency” status which means only one thing for “customers”. We’ve learnt from club members DVL(A) and CS(A) that when a department becomes a fully fledged member, its only objective is to fleece, fleece and fleece some more.

    Not yet have our councils attained “agency” status in name; we don’t for example have a West Lindsey District Resident’s Agency or NELR(A), but how long will it be before the conversion?

    The seamless makeover from simply resident to customer was something I hadn’t noticed until learning all receptions at council offices were now “customer access points”. Perhaps then, they have already converted but see the redesign of 475 logos as cost prohibitive and continue as “councils” in name only.

    This trend of running each government department as a company and the unimaginative, but profitable way, the state brings the masses to heel doesn’t stop at the oppressive way the public is handled. The ‘Penalty Culture’ and the financial dependency that this revenue stream is increasingly relied upon by the government has also been the model for how the country is run as a whole.

    HM Prison service, though not “Agency” in name, incur penalties by way of funding reductions if targets for re-offending “customers” are not met. Who is actually penalised and what is the point? Councils incur penalties for not meeting targets, waste recycling is one example. On a wider scale, the penalty culture impacts on European countries, we know that individual member states can be penalised for breaches of EU legislation. Talk about using the easiest most unimaginative methods to achieve your objective.

    But back to the summons and liability scam. The traps are set, specifically in Part V (Billing) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992. Victims fall foul of payment terms precisely set out in Part V, thus allowing the authority – under Part VI (Enforcement) of the same rules to catch-out taxpayers ‘en mass’ – bringing them before Magistrates and of course pocketing hundreds of thousands of pounds for them incurring summons costs.

    Of course there will be no proper court hearing; it is merely a formality. There are give-aways; those subject to “so called” prosecution are not required to attend the hearing, and the summonses are sent out by the council. Those who do attend the court are vigorously persuaded that a courtroom hearing is unnecessary. Persistence though, will get your case heard, but this will be futile because in fact, you will have been tried before even entering the courtroom – legislation written into the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations, dictates what the defendant can and cannot use in his defence and so has virtually no voice.

  11. Polystyrene Anchor, the Council Tax Regulations are a statutory instrument and not an Act of Parliament. I am not sure what the Freemen on the land and the Magna Carta Society have to say about Statutory Instruments, although they are part of a trend towards government by decree rather than properly discussed legislation in the House of Commons. I think there is an important constitutional point about the types of things that an SI can regulate – an SI cannot – or should not – prescribe things that can only really be done by primary legislation. In other words, wording that seriously reduces basic legal rights would need to be in a proper Act of Parliament, not in an SI. I doubt the powers that be are interested in this – as Sean and others said, they have the power, and so they decide on the interpretation, and whether right or wrong, they enforce it. End of story!

  12. Can I just clarify. I am not a Freeman on the Land, nor am I part of the Magna Carta Society. Neither do I advocate the use of Guns to kill human beings. I am simply a human being trying to survive in this truly psychotic world. I have not come to make enemies. I have not come to belittle, insult or act vexatiously.

    The suggestions I have previously offered have been tried and tested by myself. I have successfully challenged Council Tax, Overdrafts, Fiat Currency, CSA payments, bailiffs and debt collecting agencies and Road TAX. Whilst I have no sparkling, golden certificates from Government agents congratulating my hard work, they have chosen to leave me alone and I consider that a victory.

    I have read carefully what you have all written, and whilst I find myself sympathising with what you are all saying, I can’t help but notice the sad feeling in the back of my mind: You have all given up. Re-read what you have all written. You can hear it in your words. You have given in. There is no longer any bite to your statements. You just accept what your servants have told you, and, as far as your concerned, there is nothing you can do except get some guns and start a civil war. Really? Have you not paid attention to history. There is only one group of people that benefit from war, and it is not us.

    Come on. You are all intelligent people. We are more than half way through. We are finally starting to turn the tables. People, who, for as long as I have known them, have been living in fear, are waking up. People who wouldn’t have said boo to a goose a few years ago are starting to say no. And you’re getting ready to give up?

    Yes, you are right. Our servants will change the rules, they will make more policies to prevent us from doing things. And, so what? Do their little bits of paper actually stop you from doing the things you know are right?

    A smart person once said to me: Freedom is not allowing any other being to effect your inner state. It is absolutely spot on. It doesn’t bother me how many bits of paper they write up, or what they do to me. It doesn’t bother me if the Nazis do finally get their NWO. What bothers me is who am I next to them. When I am facing oblivion, do I run and give up like a coward, or do I fight on to the end.

    I have seen a man flat our refuse to pay his council tax. Even in the face of imprisonment and bankruptcy, he said no. They dragged him through a number of courts and even the High Court in London, and still he said no. That man didn’t go to prison, he wasn’t made bankrupt because he dug his heels in and refused flat out to co-operate. It is this kind of courage that will oust these insubordinate servants. Backs to the wall, balls of steel courage.

  13. “because he dug his heels in and refused flat out to co-operate. ”

    These administrative courts opperate by consent, it’s the only way they can legally opperate.

    If you don’t consent they have no power, don’t take my word for it, do your own research then “loose the fear” as thats there only weapon against you, your fear of what they might do.

    Withdraw consent. Learn about taking control of your legal name, the lrgal fiction the name on your birth certificate. Its that name they take into court not you the living sentinal being and you can occupy the office of the Executor for that legal estate and they MUST back off, if you do not consent those administrative courts can do nothing they have no power.

  14. @ Mal: Hi! I’m very impressed by your “The Government has violated the Bill of Rights by joining the EU” approach, and am considering using it myself to deal with my council tax summons and other matters. Especially as it sums up how I feel about the government!

    I for one would really value your input on the forum at http://www.getoutofdebtfree.org/ and I am sure many other members would value your input too. My username on the GOODF forum is debtfreesoon. If you join (free membership) please feel free to PM me.

    I notice in one of your posts on another topic that you are happy to share your correspondence, but don’t have a scanner and so would like help with photocopying and postage costs. I’m happy to oblige – please PM me so we can discuss.

    Best wishes, Nick

  15. Does anyone know how to get them to back when they attach a charging order to your house ? We all know they simply use the unlawful magistrates “court” liability orders as evidence to apply for one through the closed county courts .

  16. Well said Mal. People in this country give up so easily and fail to challenge anything. Like you, I will challenge and more often than not, I am victorious. The legal situation is that non-payment of Council Tax is not a crime, or anything illegal. It is a civil matter. No where in the The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 Act does it say late payment is a criminal offence. The Summons also sent out by the Council is for non-payment, not late payment. I have been sent a summons, I will be challenging it and continue to pay by monthly instalments. I have written to the head of the Council and my local MP outlining this. This is nothing but a stealth tax.

  17. Pingback: Links Exposing Illegal Council Tax Fraud | The Other Side Of Girl With A Dirty Mind