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Tax fight pensioner battles on

PUBLISHED: 18:19 17 February 2004 | UPDATED: 04:38 02 March 2010

A DEFIANT pensioner today said he will continue to battle against huge council tax increases – despite being hauled into court for his trouble.

Peter Van Geersdaele, 70, of Burkitt's Road, Woodbridge, told magistrates in Ipswich he thought it was unfair that Suffolk Coastal District Council told taxpayers to pay with 10 monthly bills – but other councils allowed residents to spread their payments over 12 months.

A DEFIANT pensioner today said he will continue to battle against huge council tax increases - despite being hauled into court for his trouble.

Peter Van Geersdaele, 70, of Burkitt's Road, Woodbridge, told magistrates in Ipswich he thought it was unfair that Suffolk Coastal District Council told taxpayers to pay with 10 monthly bills - but other councils allowed residents to spread their payments over 12 months.

Mr Van Geersdaele, who has given his support to the Evening Star's ongoing Cap the Tax campaign, was taken to court by the district council for not paying enough council tax in the year 2003/04.

He told the magistrates yesterday he did not refuse to pay his bill but had wanted to pay it over 12 months especially because Suffolk County Council had imposed a huge increase of 18.5pc. The magistrates served a liability order on Mr Van Geersdaele to pay outstanding arrears of £97 and £13 costs for the summons.

Mr Van Geersdaele said: "Obviously I broke the law and I expected to have to pay the money. But I'm glad I got the chance to put my argument across.

"I feel it was my purpose to make a stand."

He said he will pay the outstanding money now but will continue to work with Protesters Against Council Tax to raise awareness of the issue.

"Working with Pacts these last few months I've met so many people who've been affected by the huge rises in council tax and I really think it's important that we don't let the council's think they can get away with it.

"We will pester and then go on pestering until something is done about it."

Mr Van Geersdaele was accompanied at court by Reg Hartles, Roger Marchant, Tom Sully and Richard Cater of the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk (PACTS) organisation who waved placards outside court. His daughter, granddaughter and two great grandsons also turned up to give him support.

Mr Van Geersdaele told magistrates: ''I realised by paying my tax over 12 months instead of 10, my monthly payments would remain almost the same, the extra £184 required could be found and not disrupt my standard of living.

''It has given me and many others great concern that a large organisation such as the county council did not take into consideration young couples with children, senior citizens and those on fixed incomes who may not be able to pay such a large increase in their council tax bills.

''It is unacceptable that county council officials do not influence the attitude of district or borough councils in the collection of this tax - how can it be acceptable that some are allowed to pay by 12 monthly instalments while others are prosecuted for doing so?

Suffolk Coastal said, before the court case, that it would cost £150,000 to change the current system of payments and the two months when taxes were not paid gave the council the opportunity to chase up arrears.

N Do you think the council were right to prosecute Mr Van Geersdaele? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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