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Last Updated: Monday, 2 February, 2004, 12:29 GMT
Ex-magistrate in court protest
David Richardson outside the court
David Richardson has been paying the increase in the cost of living
An 84-year-old former magistrate has been given a liability order after refusing to pay all of his council tax.

David Richardson, from Haytor in Devon, had withheld the increase in tax from the previous year on a point of principle.

He was the first member of the campaigning group, the Devon Pensioners' Action Forum, to face a court hearing and appeared before Newton Abbot magistrates on Monday.

About 40 protesters gathered outside the court to cheer and applaud Mr Richardson, who was ordered to pay 70.20, plus 30 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, Second World War veteran Mr Richardson said: "I am glad I did it because I think the point has got across.

If the council tax is going to increase at the rate it has been increasing, there will be nothing but unhappiness and despair around the country
David Richardson

"It is a very unfair, unjust tax and it does not make any provision for the ability to pay.

"I will pay now because I have no other option.

"If the council tax is going to increase at the rate it has been increasing, there will be nothing but unhappiness and despair around the country."

The 17.9% council tax rise in Devon last year was one of the highest in England and led to widespread protests.

Retired businessman Mr Richardson and his 72-year-old wife Pamela had been paying only last year's amount on his Band F property, plus 1.7% to reflect the rise in the cost of living.

Mrs Richardson said: "I totally support my husband in everything he has said and done and I am immensely proud of him for having the courage to do it."

We have every sympathy with those people who can't pay their council tax. If they are in difficulty paying the tax they should contact us right away
Peter Stabb, Teignbridge District Council director of resources
Albert Venison, chairman of the Devon Pensioners' Action Forum, said after the hearing: "I thought it was a travesty of justice - a complete and utter waste of time.

"Other pensioners will now follow suit down here and I think other groups all over the country will as well. We have got to keep the pressure up."

Demonstrator John Burden, 74, from Rattery, Devon, was among the crowd outside court.

Waving a placard with the message: "Pensioners say we won't pay", he said: "I feel, and most of the people here feel, that enough is enough. The councils are literally bleeding OAPs white."

Mr Richardson's court summons had come from Teignbridge District Council, which collects the tax.

Recover money

Speaking after the case, council director of resources Peter Stabb said: "We will continue to collect council tax from those who don't pay.

"It is a duty we have in legislation and it is a duty we have to the other council tax payers of Teignbridge.

"We have every sympathy with those people who can't pay their council tax. If they are in difficulty paying the tax they should contact us right away."

The council said the liability order makes Mr Richardson legally liable to pay the tax and gives the authority leave to recover the money if he refuses.


SEE ALSO:
Protesting pensioners praised
16 Jan 04  |  Devon
Tax raises tough choices
05 Jan 04  |  Devon
Council's spending tightrope
05 Jan 04  |  Devon
4.3m given to council
12 Dec 03  |  Devon
Pensioner tax plan scrapped
18 Nov 03  |  Kent


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