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Vicar challenges council over cost of council tax summons

A vicar is challenging the London Borough of Haringey in the High Court over its £125 cost for a council tax summons.

The judicial review began yesterday at The Royal Courts of Justice on a case that dates back to August 2013, when Reverend Paul Nicolson asked Tottenham magistrates, who gave the council permission to increase the cost of the summons from £95, how the new £125 figure was arrived at.

Rev Nicolson was granted leave for judicial review in October 2014. His legal team is asserting that Tottenham Magistrates have failed to control the level of costs they levied in council tax cases, allowing Haringey Council to overcharge.

The case will be heard by Mrs Justice Andrews.

Ahead of the hearing Rev Nicolson said: “I hope the case will clarify the magistrates’ legal responsibilities when councils ask them for permission to increase costs in council tax cases and also the law relating to the calculation of the costs demanded by councils.”

He draws a comparison with Enfield Borough Council, which charges £70 for a summons.

The vicar said evidence provided through FOI requests by the Ministry of Justice showed that they made no inquiries into Haringey’s decision to request an increase in costs from £95 to £125 in 2010-11.

“In effect a court clerk with no clear authority from the magistrates granted Haringey Council an increase of £600,000 income a year or £3m over the five years to April 2015,” Nicolson said, adding that around 25,000 summonses were issued to Haringey residents in 2013-14.

The vicar said: “I remain profoundly concerned about the disproportionate effects that that the court orders for increased costs, and their draconian consequences, in council tax cases are having on benefit claimants, and the poorest residents of Haringey, in the context of all the austerity measures applying to their incomes since April 2013.”

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