Warning over council tax action

Monopoly housesHundreds of thousands of people could already have been taken to court for failing to pay council tax following benefit changes, Labour has said.

Figures obtained by the party found 112 English councils had issued more than 156,000 court summonses since April, according to reports.
That meant 450,000 people might have been taken to court if all 326 councils replied, Labour claimed.

Freedom of information requests by the party to 326 local authorities in England asked how many court summonses had been issued since support for the means-tested council tax benefit was cut by £500 million a year - around 10% of the total.

Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn told BBC Radio Five Live: "Of course people should pay their council tax but families are having to face the choice between putting food on the table, paying rising energy bills which the Prime Minister won't do anything about, the bedroom tax - some are affected by it - and now council tax increases that he has imposed on the very poorest people.

"That's why hundreds of thousands are now facing court summonses.

"The Prime Minister needs to wake up to what's going on."

Robert Oxley, from the Taxpayers' Alliance, told Five Live: "Council tax is a big burden on people's budgets these days. Everyone is struggling with rising prices, whether it's in their energy bills, their food bills or their council tax.

"The biggest thing that local residents can do at the moment is urge their councillors to adopt a council tax freeze, or a council tax cut, in the future."

Local government minister Brandon Lewis told BBC News that Labour's survey was misleading and "contradicted" by official statistics.
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