Anti Council Tax resisters besieged Edinburgh City Chambers today 5th February after the Council barred members of the public from the public gallery during the full City of Edinburgh Council meeting. Police eventually moved in to manhandle demonstrators out of the Chambers entrance. “The Council are acting like tinpot dictators – but we wont be intimidated,” say Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.
The demonstration was called to “resist the unfair council tax”. Despite the Council Tax being due for abolition, on 11th November the City of Edinburgh Council adopted a new policy of threatening 15,000 people in arrears with bankruptcy. They are trying to force these people to pay off their arrears within a year, clearly impossible for most, as the arrears often run into thousands of pounds.
“We demand the Council drop their new policy of threatening people with bankruptcy.” said ECAP today.
Supporters of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty were first told they would be admitted to the Council Meeting at 9.45am, then 9.55am….and then informed “it had been decided” they would not be admitted at all. As burly security guards blocked the entrance, opponents of the Council Tax demanded to know why they could not enter when it was clear there was plenty of room in the public gallery. Other members of the public and staff were ushered in – but anyone suspected of being involved in the protest was stopped.
Eventually the building manager appeared and announced no-one would be getting in, but refused to give any explanation. Police were present in force. “Why are the police preventing the public entering a public building to go into the public gallery of a meeting that is open to the public?” Inspector Philips, the officer in charge, refused to reply. “You’re causing a fire hazard by obstructing the door”, was his contribution to the debate.
The Mexican stand-off continued for around 30 – 40 minutes, with protesters inching into the doorway. Eventually the police grabbed demonstrators and forcibly removed them from the entrance. There were no arrests, though the Intelligence Gathering team filmed protesters and mounted police were on standby.
STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS
“We applied to have a deputation to speak to the meeting – the council refused. Now they are closing the public gallery to people who disagree with them.” said ECAP today.
“Our message to the citizens of Edinburgh is “Don’t be intimidated by the Council and sheriff officer bullies. Know your rights and battle to pay as little as possible of this unjust Council Tax. In reality the sheriffs have limited powers and they can’t cope with chasing tens of thousands of people.”
AN UNFAIR TAX
It is widely recognised that the Council Tax disproportionately affects those on low incomes.
* A household that earns £50,000 per year in Band C accommodation will pay only 2% of their income on council tax
* A household in the same Band C accommodation earning £15,000 per year will pay around 7% of their income on income tax.
* Someone on benefits will pay around 10% of their income on the water and sewerage charges collected with council tax.
SNP finance secretary John Swinney has described the council tax as “unfair” at a time when people are “under increasing pressure” from a rising cost of living, whilst Scottish Liberal Democrat finance spokesperson Jeremy Purvis has demanded the “regressive council tax” that leaves “thousands of low income families struggling” under its “punitive burden” be scrapped. As the City of Edinburgh Council is governed by an SNP/LibDem coalition it leaves the question as to why this unfair tax continues to be imposed on low income families and individuals, pushing those already struggling to survive with the massive rise in the cost of living and spiralling unemployment into dire poverty.
Less than 1% of those threatened with sequestration are able to afford to pay their debt in full, yet despite the low success rate of this policy the City of Edinburgh Council blindly pursue this policy and have now resorted to preventing a public discussion on this matter.
Today ECAP have issued the following demands :
1. That the City of Edinburgh Council instructs all firms of sheriff officers collecting Council Tax on its behalf that they should under no circumstances demand money or demand someone sign any agreement on the doorstep. Further the sheriff officers should be instructed that is unacceptable that they should issue any threats that they can come into someone’s house and take their possessions.
2. That City of Edinburgh Council scraps its policy of blanket demands of increased payments to repay all council tax debts within 12 months, under threat of bankruptcy, from over 15,000 people on the basis of post codes and credit rating.
3. That the City of Edinburgh Council issue an immediate notice to all who have received demands of increased repayments for agreed Council Tax arrears, to inform them that they can apply to continue making their existing payments on the grounds that they cannot afford to pay more. The Revenues and Benefits department should be instructed to consider such applications sympathetically.
4. That the City of Edinburgh Council adopts a policy that no-one should be put in danger of losing their home due to being in Council Tax arrears.
5. That the City of Edinburgh Council adopt a position that the Council Tax be scrapped immediately, and that any replacement be much fairer, exempting people on benefits and low wages from payment, and increasing charges to the wealthy.
CHRONIC CRISIS OF CRAZY CAPITALISM
“The Council’s new hard line policy on Council Tax arrears is even more punitive when you consider the worsening economic situation,” point out ECAP. ” Many of the people they are targeting are likely to be facing redundancy threats and short-time working.”
“Bad conditions at work, redundancies, harassment by debt collectors, benefits cuts, soaring electricity and gas bills, rip-off landlords and housing problems – as the crazy capitalist system goes into crisis, things are getting worse for the vast majority of us.”
“But remember – there’s more of us than them. People power beat the poll tax. People power can beat the Council Tax. People power can change things so that human needs become the driving force in society – not profit and money.”
“We urge people to join our solidarity phone tree so we can all support each other practically in resistance to the Council and other authorities.”
Contact ECAP by e mail firstname.lastname@example.org To join the solidarity phone tree please send us your e mail and mobile/ landline numbers, to join the announcements e mail list please send your e mail address.
Call in at ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place EH7 5HA any Tuesday 1 – 4pm for advice and solidarity against the sheriff officers and debt collectors.