A retired social worker from Devon has become the first woman pensioner to be jailed in England for refusing to pay her council tax. Sylvia Hardy, 73, from Exeter, was jailed for seven days after missing a deadline to settle arrears of £53.71.
She is a friend and fellow-campaigner of another pensioner, Alfred Ridley who is already into the second half of his 28-day sentence, also for refusing to pay his council tax in full.
Ms.Hardy did not refuse to pay her council tax - she simply withheld the amount of this year's increase, on the grounds that her council tax had risen by 50% in the last ten years - far in advance of any increase in the real value of her pension.
She is right, of course: the council tax system is almost as outrageous an idea as the Poll Tax that preceded it. It hits hardest the elderly and the poor and those who, like the Grumpy Old Sod, live in the country and therefore get the least return for their money. Where I live, we get our rubbish collected and there's a bottle bank in the village. That's all. No street-lights, no pavements, no swimming-pool, no library, no buses, no policeman on the beat - bugger-all, in fact, to show for all the money we pay each year to support the army of bureaucrats at County Hall and the mountains of paper they produce, most of it relevant only to other bureaucrats and certainly not to us. The people who live in towns get all these services laid on for them, and the rest of us have to pay for it.
But what is even more outrageous is the sledge-hammer these bureaucrats use to crack any little nut who has the cheek to stand up to them. Do Devon County Council feel so threatened by one little old lady being difficult about £50 that they have to invoke the full might of the law to get her locked up?
What a shameful, cowardly, vindictive society we must be living in if our elected representatives feel they have the right or the duty to behave like this.
The only little ray of sunshine in this sorry affair is that it will cost the state a great deal more than £53 to keep Ms.Hardy in prison. I wonder if she'll be given a bill for her keep when they let her out, like other wrongfully imprisoned citizens?
As for the magistrate who actually sent her to prison, he's our Wanker of the Week. Click here to see why.
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