Lothian Councils are sending Sheriff Officers to the doors of residents who cannot afford the Council Tax – and issuing threats to try and scare people into paying. Three Edinburgh households have told ECAP that sheriff officers came to their doors this November/ December. In two cases the sheriffs were acting for City of Edinburgh Council, in the other for East Lothian Council. We suspect this to be the tip of the iceberg….

The people targeted in these cases were being threatened to pay sums they could not afford. One is a lone parent with significant health conditions and a very low income. Another has serious health conditions and is on disability benefits. In one case Sheriff officers from Scott and Co lied, threatening that unless the amount allegedly owed was paid they would come back and seize the family’s belongings – an empty threat with no legal backing.

ECAP say – we must resist this shocking harassment of poor people by Councils and their hired lackeys in the middle of a pandemic. We demand the Councillors order the sheriffs to stop all visits to people’s homes for Council Tax debt. We call on people to organise to resist.

Don’t be intimidated!

Don’t be intimidated! The sheriff officers are few and they are very unlikely to visit you. But if they do….Don’t answer the door to sheriffs. If you do answer, then don’t speak to them, just say you are a visitor and shut the door. Don’t let them in your home. Sheriff Officers have no legal powers to just turn up and take your stuff, they have no power to enter your home without going to court and getting a Special Attachment Order. Know your rights and seek solidarity. If you or a friend are visited by sheriff officers contact ECAP.

The City of Edinburgh Council is an SNP-Labour administration and East Lothian is a Labour minority administration. This use of sheriff officers against the poor and disabled by the SNP and Labour illustrates that any political party taking power just uses the state to keep attacking the poor. We know the Tories only care about the rich but we can’t trust ANY of the parties.

The Council Tax is widely recognised as being unfair, disproportionately hitting those on low and average incomes. Then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond and Finance Secretary John Swinney promised to abolish council tax in 2007! (Sunday Herald 11.11.2007 and The Herald 12.2.2009) While the poor are hounded for Council Tax, the rich and multinational corporations use lawyers and biased laws to avoid tax.

Class War

By using sheriff officers the politicians and the rich are waging class war against the poor. We need to organise direct action from below. We need to resist and lay the basis for a better society based on equality not exploitation and need not profit. When millions refused to pay the poll tax, the sheriffs and bailiffs were sent packing and the unfair tax proved unworkable.

  • Join the ECAP solidarity network by emailing to sign up to give support to anyone up against the sheriff officers, the DWP, the Council or any authorities. If you send us your email, and if possible your mobile number, then we will let you know when your solidarity is needed, and also keep you up to date with ECAP activities and news.
  • Tell the council leaders they must stop this disgraceful harassment and order sheriff officers to stop all such sheriff officer visits to homes for Council Tax debt. City of Edinburgh Council Leader SNP Adam McVey 0131 529 3279 Leader Labour Group Cammy Day 0131 529 3281 East Lothian Council Leader Labour Willie Innes 01620 827007

Some notes for further information

The Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers has issued guidelines for the Covid 19 pandemic:

“Protection Level 3. The designation Level 3 indicates an area in which there is a high prevalence of the virus. In these areas we recommend that you do not carry out Exceptional Attachments or Ejections at domestic premises.

Protection Level 4

This is the highest level and, in addition to the restrictions in Level 3, we also recommend that you do not execute Attachments, except at commercial premises that remain open”

In any case the anti poll tax struggle shows that organised community resistance can stop sheriff attempts to enter homes.

If you have any savings then a bigger threat is the Sheriff Officers freezing your bank account. Savings above the protected amount of £529.90 can be arrested.

But there are things you can do to protect yourself, see the section on BANK ACCOUNT SECURITY on the ‘Debt Worries’ page.

More info on resisting debt enforcement on ECAP’s Debt Worries? page.

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