Pensioner vows not to pay council tax

By James HoreA PENSIONER has vowed he will go to prison rather than pay the full increase in his council tax.Tony Constable, 71, said he was disgusted with the rise of 16.

By James Hore

A PENSIONER has vowed he will go to prison rather than pay the full increase in his council tax.

Tony Constable, 71, said he was disgusted with the rise of 16.5% on his band C house in Margaret Road, Colchester, which pushed his council tax bill to more than £1,000.

The former BT worker said he was able to afford the bill, but added he would only pay an increase of 3%, in line with the state pension change, to draw attention to the number of people who could not afford to pay the charge.

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Mr Constable, who maintained his move was not a political gesture, said: “I am prepared to follow this through and I am quite happy to go to prison.

“It is not a question of whether I can afford it or not - but there must be hundreds of people up and down the county who can't.

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“A 16.45% increase over three years becomes 50% and I defy that any person, on what I would call a normal working wage, can pay that.”

Mr Constable said his opposition was motivated by the deaths of two elderly friends, whom he claimed had struggled to pay their council tax bills.

The pensioner, who also called for people in Essex to cancel their council tax payments, added his wife Betty had given her blessing to his action, even if it led to imprisonment.

A letter received from Colchester Borough Council advised Mr Constable he could face “recovery action” if he did not pay the full bill, although it acknowledged “it is going to be very difficult for many people to meet the large increase in their council tax payments”.

Colin Sykes, leader of the cabinet at the borough council, said: “I do have sympathy with all the residents about this year's rise.

“But I do advise Mr Constable to think again because if he refuses to pay, I suspect he will find that action will be taken.”

Mr Sykes called for the current system of council tax to be replaced with a local income tax, “based on people's ability to pay”.

Although Mr Constable is willing to go to prison, it is a rare fate for non-taxpayers and serves more as a last resort available to magistrates after all other options have been exhausted.

Following a reminder, a summons would be served on the individual before the council could apply for a liability order at magistrates' court to give it a number of options - including taking cash from earnings or a close family member.

Bailiffs can also be called in, but if they are unsuccessful, the council can go back to court to get a no effects certificate - which would see magistrates ultimately decide the individual's fate.

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