Chorley Council Bin Collection Calendar 2024 September

‘My bin collection is rubbish – so can I stop paying council tax?’

Dear Gary,

Wheelie bin cover hi-res stock photography and images - Alamy
Wheelie bin cover hi-res stock photography and images – Alamy

I am a law-abiding citizen at the end of my tether with my local council, who seem incapable of organising a regular bin collection service.

Residents in my area often see our rubbish pile up because the council is failing to arrange vehicles and/or staff to empty the bins consistently and on the allotted days.

Christmas and New Year bin collection dates in Preston, Chorley
Christmas and New Year bin collection dates in Preston, Chorley

It is a health hazard and, to me, a derogation of duty by the council regarding one of the most basic services we pay our council tax towards.

When the council tax bill for 2024-25 dropped on my doormat recently, I was enraged at the audacity of it charging even larger sums from all of us rate payers, but not even providing a core service.

At the age of nearly 70, I am thinking of withholding my council tax in protest. Would I have any defence?

Brian, from Brighton & Hove

Dear Brian,

I am Head of Bins and Recycling at home, aka “Gary Garbage”, and it would be highly stressful to me if our refuse collection was erratic, or worse did not happen at all some weeks. But would I withhold my council tax in protest? In short, no, I would not.

Certainly, one reason is because as a practising solicitor I have a duty to my regulator (the Solicitors Regulation Authority) to uphold the rule of law. But also I am just not an anarchist at heart.

However, I hear your plight and understand that weeks of rubbish piling up has broken you and you feel that you must do something to make your frustration understood by an entity which you see as the source of your difficulties.

Your question to me is whether there is a defence to what you propose, not whether I approve.

If you had personally entered a contract with a commercial business for them to empty your bins, you could withhold your payment to them on the basis of breach of contract. But your relationship with the council is not on a commercial or contractual basis.

Also, some people mistakenly believe that there is some so-called common law rule that if you are a “Freeman of the Borough”, or similar, you are exempt from having to pay council tax if you wish.

All these notions are nonsense. Your legal obligation to pay council tax arises under statute, that is law made by Parliament. More precisely, under the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

You are concerned particularly with the collection of your rubbish and recycling, but of course your council will have many other statutory duties to fulfil, including housing, environmental health and organising elections. And you have no legal authority to choose which part of the statutory services you want to pay for and which you do not.


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The law says you must pay the council tax set by your local council and demanded of you. Any person who does not pay their council tax is liable to be pursued under the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.

In terms of legal proceedings, an application would be made on the council’s behalf to the magistrates’ court for a summons to be issued in respect of unpaid tax.

When an application is approved, it is endorsed by the court’s legal adviser and the council is informed of their application’s outcome.

The summons is then printed and the council serves it to the non-payer. The summons sets out what the council believes is owed and when the matter will be heard at the magistrates’ court.

As you would have no defence, unless you paid up forthwith, the outcome of the court hearing would be an order being made against you.

One consequence of having an order made against you for a debt is a negative impact on your credit score. Even more seriously, money debts of this kind can be enforced by a court appointed enforcement officer, also known as a bailiff, who can knock on your door with a warrant and seize goods to be sold to pay off the debt.

If for some reason the bailiff is unsuccessful in recovering the debt from you, the council can apply to the magistrates’ court for you to be committed to prison. You will have to appear before the magistrates to explain why the council tax has not been paid.

Magistrates will conduct an inquiry into your finances at the time the debt became due. You will be required to tell the court of your household income and how that income was spent.

If you’re found guilty of wilful refusal to pay council tax, you may be committed to prison for up to 90 days. The council would undoubtedly also request that the court award costs against you in respect of the committal summons.

In summary, there is no credible defence to what you propose. If you do not pay your council tax, you will find yourself going down the road to court, face enforcement of the debt by the bailiffs knocking or, as an ultimate sanction, prison.

I urge you not to start that journey. Maybe it would be better to stand for election to the council and influence the democratic decisions made that way.

Lawyers often act for clients they do not approve of. And I am glad they do because it is a fundamental principle of a fair system of justice that everyone should have legal representation.

However, I hope this article has talked you out of putting one of my professional colleagues in Brighton and Hove to the trouble of having to defend an anarchist with a hopeless case.

But, more than anything, I also hope your bins get emptied soon.

Ask A Lawyer should not be taken as formal legal advice, but rather as a starting point for readers to undertake their own further research.

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