Posted by: John Brace | 3rd November 2014

Wirral Council taking people to court who can't pay Council Tax: £2,196 Paying for it using a Barclaycard in the name of M Burns: Priceless

Wirral Council taking people to court who can’t pay Council Tax: £2,196
Paying for it using a Barclaycard in the name of M Burns: Priceless


As I’d better declare this interest at the start, I will state that my wife is the person in this household liable for Council Tax.

Just when the satirists must have thought that the filming ban of public meetings of Wirral Council would led to a deficit of quotable quotes from local councillors, below is a credit card statement from November 2013. Quite what the blacked out bit states or the other ten pages I’m not sure.

Now I’m not saying people shouldn’t pay Council Tax, however thanks to decisions made by Wirral Council’s Cabinet, households that hadn’t paid Council Tax before because they had got 100% Council Tax Benefit, suddenly had to pay a whopping 22% (this figure is from memory and applies (I’m massively simplifying here as there are people who don’t have to pay Council Tax too) to households of people of working age with nobody of state pension age and above). This led to an increase in people not paying, which led naturally to an increase in Magistrates’ Court cases filed by Wirral Council.

The Magistrates’ Court is of course where my father used to work before he retired and located just off Hamilton Square in Birkenhead and Tranmere ward, which by sheer coincidence is the ward where Wirral Council’s Leader of the Council/Cabinet Member for Finance Cllr Phil Davies represents.

At the time this change was planned and going out to consultation I warned Wirral Council in public meetings that this would need to lead to an increase in bad debt provision and their own costs!

Council Tax is one of the few taxes you can get locked up for in this country for not paying. Thus returning us to the concept of the “debtors prison” in Victorian England.

However the question is, how many people who literally couldn’t pay Council Tax, even if Wirral Council got a court order is Wirral Council going to the trouble of launching criminal cases over that costs the taxpayer money?

Bear in mind that this is a monthly invoice. Although the statement is in the name of LM Burns, it does somewhat remind me of the character of Charles Montgomery Burns in the Simpsons or as he would say “Release The Hounds!”

This is the court fee element, Wirral Council add this, plus their own internal legal costs to the outstanding Council Tax bill, which means by the end the Council Tax bill that they couldn’t pay before is even larger! Oh and thanks to Wirral Council, those who couldn’t pay end up at the end of the process with a criminal record, making it harder for them to get certain jobs to pay off their Council Tax debt!

Council Tax court cases Barclaycard invoice Wirral Council November 2013

Council Tax court cases Barclaycard invoice Wirral Council November 2013

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  1. Questions 1 Mr Brace Have we ever met?. Q2. The Council tax Regulations are second to none, because a Government Legal team was responsible for writing them and obviously relevant other people involved. Does a Statute top a Regulation?. Q3. Why would a Council employ a Super Duper top notch Solicitor to handle a Council Tax case? Q4. As mentioned by you before in your blog, some Councillors also sit on the Bench, some also claim expenses, a Hint of Bias? in that can they not be seen as sitting in their own cause (R v Bow Street Stipendiary Magistrates Court, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (1998) ) The Magistrates cannot revisit the case, as would be normal, under given circumstances, so the matter would have had to have gone to the Crown Court, on first application. This then creates problems with the issue of Liability/Enforcement Orders for the magistrates

    • A1) I have no idea because I do not know what you look like.

      A2) Both regulations and statutes are laws. However as you probably know yourself, those starting legal cases can interpret the laws to whatever meaning they wish (subject of course to judicial interpretation too).

      A3) I’ve no idea, I’ve not been at the Magistrates’ Court during a Council Tax case so I’ve no idea who represents Wirral Council.

      A4) I know of one councillor who is also a magistrate. I would presume she does not hear Council Tax cases if indeed she is a magistrate in the local magistrates’ court.

      Obviously there are judicial rules to be followed pertaining to conflicts of interest and cases. If a magistrate were to decide and hear a case when they had a conflict of interest, it would give the defendant grounds for appeal and bring the judiciary into disrepute.