Victims of domestic violence saddled with council tax bills on homes they have fled

An “obscene and callous” rule which forces victims of domestic violence to pay council tax on homes they have had to flee – sometimes with just the clothes they are wearing – is to be assessed by council bosses.

Southend Council leader Stephen George said “the law is an ass” before agreeing to look into a rule which can sometimes leave victims of domestic violence paying council tax on homes they no longer live in.

The pledge came after Matt Dent, Labour councillor for the Kursaal ward, raised the issue at a full council meeting.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Dent said: “It seems to me obscene that a vulnerable person in Southend could flee their home, be forced to leave their home and be in a refuge and still be liable for council tax on that home which they have had to flee.

“It strikes me as a callous situation and one which I would very much like to see this council remedy.”

Cllr Dent asked Mr George if he could “look at the possibility of including within our council tax scheme, something that would allow such council tax charges to be waived for people in that situation”.

Former Southend resident Jo Adams found herself with the burden of having to pay council tax on a home she had fled while trying to start a new life elsewhere.

She said: “I think as the law is it could put women off leaving and being able to return to their property. Dual housing benefit is already paid so why leave council tax out?

“When I left I was given a council tax bill and funds were already tight. Think of having to get furniture, some will have to get new uniforms for kids new schools, sorting council tax and new bills in homeless accommodation and then being hit with a council tax bill for somewhere you can’t even be at for the time being.”

Ms Adams added: “When I first had to flee we left in the clothes we were stood in. It may take a while to remove a perpetrator if that’s possible with court delays. My urgent non-molestation order took four months to get in court.”

Cllr George said it was down to the legalities of council tax rules but he added “sometimes the law is an ass” and said he would “look into it”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter