A vicar has said he is prepared to be bankrupted and go to prison to highlight benefit cuts and charges he claims are “shortening people’s lives”.
The Reverend Paul Nicolson, 84, who lives in Tottenham, spoke out ahead of a court hearing to deal with his refusal to pay council tax since 2013.
He calls it an “act of civil disobedience” in a fight against tax and welfare policies which he says unfairly hit those on low incomes. “If you make people ill by not giving them enough income, forcing them into debt, you reduce the length of time they could possibly live,” he said. “National and local government are shortening people’s lives.”
About jail he said: “I’m absolutely ready for that. You don’t undertake civil disobedience without being able to take the consequences.” The retired reverend began refusing to pay council tax in 2013 as ministers brought in controversial housing benefit reform, including the “bedroom tax” and benefit cap.
In 2015, Mr Nicolson won a challenge against the right of Tottenham magistrates’ court to implement the enforcement charge in his case, but he still owes £2,800 in council tax arrears.
He also made a failed court challenge against Grant Thornton, Haringey council’s auditors, over the enforcement charges, leaving him owing a further £47,000 in legal costs.
A spokesman for Haringey said only: “Rev Nicolson’s hearing is on June 15 at Tottenham magistrates’ court.”