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Reverend loses appeal against Haringey council tax court charges

PUBLISHED: 14:00 25 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:04 25 February 2016

Rev Paul Nicolson outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Photo: Polly Hancock

Rev Paul Nicolson outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Photo: Polly Hancock

Archant

An 83-year-old clergyman lost his appeal against Haringey council tax court charges, but said he believes the case was in the “public interest”.

Retired reverend Paul Nicolson represented himself at the Royal Courts of Justice today against Grant Thornton, Haringey Council’s auditors.

He claimed residents had been forced to pay a blanket charge for court costs, whether or not they paid their council tax in full once they received a court summons and did not actually have to appear in court.

But Lord Justice Hamblen said it was “factually incorrect” that Haringey Council charged everyone for court hearings in 2013/14.

Haringey Council did charge a “lump sum” to everyone when sending out a court summons, but this figure did not include court hearing costs.

They waived any further costs which came about after sending the court summons.

“There is nothing unlawful in resolving to charge the maximum [costs]”, Lord Justice Hamblen said. “But the council was not seeking the maximum costs.”

The costs Haringey Council claimed from residents were actually slightly less than the council incurred, he explained.

And these costs could legitimately include legal fees, admin costs and overheads.

Lord Justice Hamblen said the costs Haringey Council charged were “not unreasonable”.

“I conclude the appeal must be dismissed,” he said.

Rev Nicolson has been challenging Haringey Council on this issue since 2013.

The clergyman refused to pay his council tax, and was charged court costs, offering himself up as a test case.

As a result of Rev Nicolson’s successful challenge to his charges in the high court in May 2015, Haringey Council reduced their charges.

If residents receive a court summons they now have to pay £102, down from £125.

If the case then proceeds to a hearing, they have to pay £115, reduced from £125.

Rev Nicolson said he “did not regret taking this case” after losing his appeal today.

“It had to be challenged in the interests of the 58 per cent of people in Haringey who are renters,” he said.

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