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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 September 2005, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Tax rebel vicar is sent to jail
The Reverend Alfred Ridley and his wife Una
The Reverend Alfred Ridley had been warned he faced jail
A retired vicar has been jailed for 28 days for refusing to pay what he called an "unfair" increase in council tax.

The Reverend Alfred Ridley, 71, of Towcester, Northants, was jailed for ignoring a court order that he repay 691 in arrears to his local authority.

He had been given a suspended sentence in July but refused to comply with the court order to repay the money.

Ridley was told by Towcester Magistrates there was "no alternative" but to jail him.

Magistrate John Woollett said: "We have been very patient with you, we have tried to encourage you to pay this money."

I am very proud of him. I hope people realise that this is a serious situation... we want the government and the councils to get together.
Una Ridley

The dispute arose when the council announced it was increasing its annual tax by 8.5% in one go. Ridley and his wife Una refused to pay a rise above the rate of inflation.

Eventually they fell 541 in arrears, but court and bailiff costs increased this sum to 691.

Ridley has always said he was prepared to pay last year's council tax level with an increase for inflation, but no more.

He told the court: "I am saying that I am not going to pay an illegal council tax demand. No-one should pay an illegal council tax demand."

The pensioner, who has a slight heart condition, was led away to begin his sentence at the high security Woodhill jail in Milton Keynes that has housed the Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

'Last resort'

Ridley's supporters mobbed magistrate Mr Wollett's car shouting "shame, that's a travesty" as he tried to leave the court complex on Wednesday afternoon.

Christine Melsom, leader of the Is It Fair campaign group, which wants the tax scrapped, said they stood squarely behind the vicar whose choice it was to go on with the protest.

"We will support him all the way. Whatever happens today there are more and more people supporting this campaign," she said.

In a statement South Northamptonshire District Council said it had a legal obligation to collect the tax and had exhausted all avenues and compromises before taking court action against Mr Ridley.

Pensioners are viewed no differently than any other members of the public who are liable for council tax
South Northants District Council

"This course of action is the council's very last resort in all cases but every attempt to make it possible for Mr Ridley to pay the significant outstanding amount in affordable instalments has been refused," it said.

"In the eyes of the law, pensioners are viewed no differently than any other members of the public who are liable for council tax."

Mrs Ridley, 70, said she was very proud of her husband.

"I hope people realise that this is a serious situation," she said.

"We want the government and the councils to get together. Tax should be on people's ability to pay."

Mrs Ridley said she expected her husband to be moved from the high security jail after a short period, but did not know where he would serve most of his sentence.

The couple's son Joel, a 30-year-old chef, said: "He has been prepared to go to prison all along."


SEE ALSO:
Rebel tax vicar could face jail
13 Jul 05 |  Northamptonshire
Tax rebel vicar ready for prison
18 May 05 |  Northamptonshire
Pair risk prison over council tax
08 Sep 04 |  Northamptonshire


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