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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 12:30 GMT
Protester 'should not be paying tax'
Elizabeth Winkfield
Elizabeth Winkfield said she would rather go to jail than pay
Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford says an elderly council tax protester from Devon should not be paying any council tax at all if reports about her income are correct.

Mr Raynsford said on Monday that if newspaper reports were correct - that Elizabeth Winkfield, from Westward Ho!, lives solely on her 77.45 a week state pension - then she is not eligible to pay council tax.

Miss Winkfield said she would rather go to jail than pay a 99 council tax debt.

The spinster was faced with a council tax rise of almost 18% last year, but decided to pay only an extra 2.5%.

I've been getting letters from people and telephone calls telling me I'm a hero
Elizabeth Winkfield
Mr Raynsford told GMTV on Monday: "The irony is that if the figures in the papers - and the Daily Mail has a big story this morning about Elizabeth - are right and that her income is just 77 a week, she shouldn't be due to pay any council tax at all.

"Indeed, she should also qualify for the minimum pension guarantee which we have introduced to increase the income for pensioners.

"I think the top priority now is to ensure that Elizabeth gets proper advice on her entitlement."

Miss Winkfield was taken to Barnstaple Magistrates' Court last week by Torridge District Council.

Torridge said on Monday it had no knowledge of her financial situation.

But it had offered to send an official to see her and decide whether she is entitled to pension credit or other benefits.

"If she is living alone, she is entitled to a 25% discount in council tax," said a spokesman.

"We are willing to help her and we have offered to do so."

Nick Raynsford
Nick Raynsford was speaking on GMTV on Monday

Miss Winkfield, who is suffering from laryngitis and bronchitis, was unable to comment on Monday.

But speaking on the BBC's Breakfast With Frost on Sunday, she told of the support her stance had attracted.

She said: "I am hoping that it will carry on. I never thought that it would get to this stage.

"I thought just a few local people would be at the court to see me, or maybe nobody.

"I have had so many cards from people, telephone calls, telling me I'm a hero.

"But all I have done is sat back and said I am not paying, it is not right."

The government has said that it will work to stop councils imposing big increases in tax this year.

Councils 'heeding' tax warnings
22 Feb 04  |  Politics
South West: A bill too far
20 Feb 04  |  Politics Show
Tax rebel may avoid jail
20 Feb 04  |  Devon
Rebel pensioner fights on
19 Feb 04  |  Devon

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