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Jul 4th, 2019

End prison sentences for council tax debt

By Megan Bentall

“I’m still suffering to this day … It makes you always look over your shoulder.”
– Anonymous 40 year old woman imprisoned for 90 days for council tax debt [4]
Debt is not a crime. But people in England are being thrown in prison because they can’t afford to pay their council tax bills.

It’s an outdated law that belongs in the history books. For years Scotland and Northern Ireland have found other ways to make sure councils get the tax they need – and now Wales has abolished the use of prison sentences too. England is the last place in the UK still locking up people for the “crime” of being poor.

Right now councils up and down the country are so strapped for cash they’re cutting services to balance the books. Paying council tax is important, it’s money councils desperately need. But threatening people with prison simply isn’t the answer.

In a matter of weeks council tax debt can rapidly spiral from hundreds to thousands of pounds, quickly making it almost impossible to repay. [6] If you don’t have the money, the threat of prison doesn’t make the sums add up. Spending £8,000 of taxpayers’ money to lock someone up only makes it harder for them to find money to pay their bill.

The government has promised to find better ways for councils to collect the money they’re owed. And Pauline has set up a petition calling on the government to scrap prison as punishment for people struggling to get by. If thousands of us sign Pauline’s petition now, they’ll have to put an end to this injustice. Let’s demand rules fit for the 21st century.

If you think people shouldn’t live in fear of being thrown in prison because they don’t have enough money to make ends meet, sign the petition today



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