Taxing times

A pensioner who refused to pay his council tax in protest against budget cuts has been JAILED for 28 days.

Retired university lecturer Ross Longhurst, 72, was hauled before a court over an outstanding  £1,000 debt which he owed to Nottingham City Council.

He arrived at the city’s magistrates court on Thursday (13/3) defiantly clutching a placard declaring: “Don’t Pay Council Tax’.

Before the case he said he was prepared to go to prison for his cause to show “solidarity” with the victims of austerity measures.

And once in the dock, he even urged the magistrates to stop paying their council tax and added: “I encourage everyone in court…don’t pay up.”

JPs heard Longhurst had refused to pay a penny of council tax since for a year in protest against cuts at the local authority.

The council were forced to make savings of £25.5m in 2013 and council tax increased by 1.95 per cent to #1,095.84 as they look to slash £125 million from their budget.

Longhurst – who had three pensions, including a teacher’s pension and his state pension  –  was left with a total bill of £1,028.86.

The former Loughborough University social and media studies lecturer admitted a charge of non-payment of council tax between April 1, 2013 and March 31 this year.

Magistrates said that as he “wilfully will not pay” they would have to jail him and sentenced him to 28 days behind bars.

As he was led down to the cells by prison guards he was applauded by his supporters and one could be heard shouting: “It’s absolutely disgraceful.”

The court heard Longhurst had not communicated with the council about his financial position, had not given a statement of means and turned down legal advice from a duty solicitor.

The hearing was brought following failed efforts to recover the money he owed after the court made a previous liability order which demanded he pay the full amount, plus costs of £70.

Before the case Longhurst conceded: “I will have to do the time.

“I’m prepared to do it, because I have made a stand on the matter and I will have to see it through.”

He also accused the Labour-run council of showing “callous disregard” for local people and said the Coalition Government was waging a “war on the poor”.

Giving evidence Longhurst, from New Basford, Notts., added: “These (cuts) particularly impact on poor people.

“We live in a country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

“I refuse to pay in solidarity with and in support of the victims of austerity measures.

“I encourage everyone in court, including the magistrates, don’t pay up.”

Nottingham City Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Graham Chapman said after the case: “By continuing to refuse to pay his council tax, Mr Longhurst unfortunately left the magistrates with no option but to imprison him.

“We sympathise with Mr Longhurst’s protest against Government cuts to council funding, which we also oppose as being disproportionate and unfair, but not paying your council tax is not illegal but further undermines the funds available for council services.

“We have a legal duty to collect it and so had no option but to bring this case to court.

“We have been doing all we can to minimise the impact of the cuts on key services, especially those which are relied on by vulnerable people, and take no pleasure in carrying out the cuts or bringing case like this to court.

“Councillors’ allowances have been frozen for over four years, during which time we have had to save £125 million from our budget.”

One of his supporters, who did not want to be named, said afterwards: “It is a travesty that he has been jailed.

“It is disgusting, he is an elderly man who was trying to make a stand, he was trying to make the area a better place and this is why he is now behind bars.

“He has worked and paid council tax, but as all of us do, he got sick of it, he was braver than everyone because he stood up for what he thought was right.”