War veteran digs in again on council tax

A 75-year-old war veteran appeared at court yesterday for refusing to pay his council tax for the second year in a row. Rebel pensioner Richard Fitzmaurice, of Heacham, spent two nights in prison last November after he refused to pay West Norfolk Council's bill.

A 75-year-old war veteran appeared at court yesterday for refusing to pay his council tax for the second year in a row.

Rebel pensioner Richard Fitzmaurice, of Heacham, spent two nights in prison last November after he refused to pay West Norfolk Council's bill.

Despite being warned he could face another stint behind bars, the pensioner has said he will not pay the council tax again this year.

Mr Fitzmaurice is refusing to pay his bill because he believes it is an unfair burden on pensioners, single parents and people on low wages.

Last year he was sentenced to 32 days behind bars, but was freed after his family paid his arrears of £1,358.50.

He was summonsed to appear before magistrates in King's Lynn yesterday for a council application for a liability order. The order gives the council the power to take steps to recoup the money using bailiffs.

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The summons for non-payment of his council tax and fine this year totals £1,419.51.

If Mr Fitzmaurice still fails to pay, he will be ordered to appear before the court at a later date and he could be sent to prison again.

He said: "I am quite prepared to go to prison again. Someone has to stand up against it.

"I am not paying this tax on principle. I am lucky, I can afford to pay it, but I am making my stand for all the pensioners who cannot afford to. It is a very unfair tax.

"I do want more people to stand up against it; there needs to be a voice against it. I don't wish to go back to prison, but I will if I have too."

During the brief hearing, Catherine Saunders, a revenue court officer for West Norfolk Council, told the court that if the bill was not settled, she would be asking for a custodial sentence at a later date on the grounds that Mr Fitzmaurice had an opportunity to pay the bill, but he had not.

Mr Fitzmaurice was also given a warning by magistrates and security guards after he tried to pin up leaflets highlighting his campaign.

Security staff confiscated his stapler until after his court appearance.

Last year Mr Fitzmaurice was released from jail after his family paid the bill, but the pensioner said he would have been happy to have served the full 32 days in prison. And he said he would be happy to serve his time again this year if it highlighted the point that the council tax was too expensive for pensioners.