Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Robbing the poor

At the heart of this Council Tax issue are examples such as these, this one from Basildon where the council is ripping off a widow on minimum wage, imposing charges of £45 for a summons and £50 for a liability order because the woman was late paying.

What comes over is the chilling indifference of the council official, which is positively sinister when one appreciates that the bulk of the charge is almost certainly unlawful. But then, with chief executive Bala Mahendran on an annual salary of £155,904 and the senior management team taking £987,960 – plus pension payments and bonuses – one can see why officials need to be stealing the widow's mite.

Continuing with the survey of charges made by local authorities, the latest result in is from Runnymede Borough Council, Surrey. This is a very prosperous part of the London commuter belt, with some of the most expensive housing in the UK outside of central London.

With a population of 84,000, comprising some of the richest people in the UK, it still found it necessary to extract £130,509 from 2,181 summonses and 1,626 liability orders during the last financial year – robbing some of the very poor to keep the rich fully serviced (chart above).

Looking at this in the round, though, with three results from last year to evaluate – Bradford, Ipswich and now Runnymede - I'm looking at ways of comparing the data. One such is to relate the populations to the number of liability orders issued, ratios which yield interesting results.

If we take the wealthy Runnymead, we see a ratio of 1:51. Ipswich, with its population of 122,300 and 4,803 liability orders, yields 1:25. Bradford, on the other hand, with a population of 501,700 (and they call this local government ... there are countries smaller) and 32,428 liability orders, delivers a ratio of 1:15 - essentially, one person in fifteen gets a liability order.

There are too few results yet to come to definitive conclusions, but this tiny spread certainly would support a claim that the councils are systematically robbing the poor.