IN December 2018 I alerted the HT by way of a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, to the fact that in the tax year 2017/18 the then Tory-led Herefordshire Council had summonsed more than 7,500 people for non-payment of Council Tax.

My FoI also revealed that that administration did not distinguish between benefit claimants and non-benefit claimants in making the summonses, while benefit claimants in Herefordshire were obliged to pay a portion of their Council Tax.

 Though I have not pursued that matter with the post-2019 County Council elections administration, residents' ability to pay back council tax debt is highlighted by a recent court ruling affecting four people left destitute after court fines were deducted from their Universal Credit.

With housing charity Shelter on the claimants' side, the Guardian reports: "A group of former rough sleepers who were left destitute after the Department for Work and Pensions automatically deducted a third of their universal credit allowance to pay off court fines have won a high court victory.

"The department’s blanket deductions policy had left the four highly vulnerable individuals with £52 a week to live on and unable to meet the cost of food and heating or transport to job interviews and medical appointments.

"The judge ruled the department was in breach of a law requiring benefits officials to use their discretion to ensure court fines were deducted from universal credit at a rate recognising claimants’ vulnerability and ability to repay.”

Further to this, a Hereford Times special investigation found that travel logistics in Herefordshire constituted a major barrier to residents' ability to obtain justice. 

Under lockdown and with a surge in the rollout of Universal Credit under pandemic, and widespread 'firing and rehiring' under pandemic, what are Herefordshire Council and our MPs doing to address the issues exposed?

Alan Raymond Wheatley


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