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Crouch End COPD sufferer fined by Haringey Council for unpaid tax - despite being owed cash by council's housing body

PUBLISHED: 08:59 03 May 2019

James Walsh outside his Homes for Haringey supported living flat in Avenue Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

James Walsh outside his Homes for Haringey supported living flat in Avenue Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A Crouch End man suffering from COPD was dragged through the court system over council tax arrears - even though he was actually owed money by arms-length council body Homes for Haringey.

James Walsh with his court summons for non payment of council tax. Picture: Polly HancockJames Walsh with his court summons for non payment of council tax. Picture: Polly Hancock

James Walsh, who has lived in supported accommodation in Avenue Road since April 2018, told the Broadway he only discovered the debt when he got a court summons in February.

When he moved in, due to receiving Personal Independent Payment benefit, he didn't have to pay any council tax.

However after a reassessment in August, the Broadway understands he was deemed no longer eligible for 100 per cent council tax relief. He maintains he wasn't told this, and was surprised to get a court summons for £111.70.

The 62-year-old was found guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on April 11.

This is despite the fact James had in the meantime actually overpaid his rent by £261, and is even now having this repaid by the council – which says it couldn't have simply written off the council tax debt as Homes for Haringey is separate.

Meanwhile, James is appealing the DWP's verdict that he is “fit to work”.

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James said: “Because I could communicate effectively, and move my hands, they found me fit to work. But with the council tax, I didn't think I was liable. Why would I? So I didn't check.”

Haringey Council said that, when he was reassessed, he qualified to pay 19.8 per cent of his council tax. It says it sent a number of letters to him before the court summons. James told us he did not receive these.

James, a painter and decorator before he retired due to ill health 12 years ago, has his lung capacity reduced by 90 per cent due to stage four COPD.

The illness is an term for lung diseases including emphysema, bronchitis and non-reversible asthma.

He overpaid his rent as he was told to pay, despite his housing benefit covering it, he said.

As he is living in supported accommodation, he gets a daily intercom call from a Homes for Haringey support worker.

When the Broadway visited, it found the call was so brief, James didn't have time to raise any concerns. He also said that the support worker didn't inform him of the council tax arrears, and believes he wouldn't have ended up in court if he had been told.

In response, Haringey Council said that as the support worker works for Homes for Haringey, they would not have known about it, so couldn't have warned him.

He said: “You stay quiet for so long, and you bottle up these feelings. I feel really upset about it, especially at night.”

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