Council tax arrears jail threat in Sheffield crackdown

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Thousands of council tax dodgers are being warned they face jail as they are brought before the courts in a city-wide crackdown.

Suspended prison sentences were dished out to residents owing four-figure sums to Sheffield Council as part of a tough new line - designed to claw back some of the £33 million unpaid tax in the city.

A father-of-two who had fallen into arrears of more than £4,000, and a grandmother who had failed to pay a single bill since 2008, were among those who appeared at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Proceedings represented one of the first waves of people to be warned they face jail for long-standing debts, following changes to council tax legislation introduced in April.

Thousands of summons have been issued across the city, which has the 37th worst record of 326 local authorities across England and Wales for average arrears.

Grandmother Lynne Pacey, aged 55, appeared for non-payment of £6,771.62 dating back to 2006.

John Arnold, prosecuting, said: “The last amount paid on the account until recently was April 2008. This is clearly a substantial amount in council tax arrears and the local authority’s contention is it is culpable neglect.”

Pacey told the court she had been the sole breadwinner since her husband injured his leg, leaving him unable to work, in 2007.

She said her partner did not claim state support and she didn’t ‘know a lot about benefits’ - before the prosecution pointed out she works as a debt adviser for a Sheffield finance firm.

Pacey, of Springwood Road, Heeley, was given a 90-day suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay back the sum at £150 a month.

Ian Parkin blamed the death of his mother for causing him to fall behind in council tax payments totalling £4,004.02.

The 51-year-old dad’s failure to pay dated back to March 2007, when he was living at his mum’s house.

Magistrates heard Parkin had made numerous arrangements to pay back cash to the local authority in instalments, which were never honoured.

Surat Alam, defending, said: “For sentimental reasons he felt he had to cling on to his mother’s house after she died.

“He was informed there were substantial arrears but he agreed to take them on.

“He doesn’t have Sky, he doesn’t go on holidays, he is doing everything he can.”

Parkin, of Lindsay Road, Parson Cross, was given a 90-day suspended prison sentence which will last until the outstanding sum is paid.

Warrants without bail were issued to 10 people who failed to show at court in the morning, and cases were adjourned until September 30.

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