‘Let down’ bloke ‘would rather go to prison than pay his council tax bill’

A fed-up bloke says he would "rather go to prison" than pay his hefty council tax bill in protest of "paying his entire pension back."

Stephen Matthews, 59, says he has ended up giving out "much more" in council tax than he did before he took out his pension.

The ex-paper mill worker, who is a carer for his wife Julie, says he only made the life-altering decision under the pretence that his benefits wouldn't be affected.

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Mr Matthews, from Retford, says he feels "let down by everyone" and claims he was misinformed when he took his pension out as a tax-free lump sum of £15,500.

The 59-year-old said he was told that anything under £16,000 would not affect the benefits he received.

He receives Carer's Allowance as well as income-based Employment and Support Allowance [ESA] benefits, reports Manchester Evening News.

"They said that for anything over £6,000, I would pay a pound per £100 over," he explained.

"But that worked out at a reduction of £20 in my ESA, which I said was acceptable as it meant I would be £2,000 a year better off.

"Then six months later, I get told I won't get my council tax benefit, I won't get help with my rent benefit."

Mr Matthews said if he had to pay the full £60 a week, he would be handing over "every penny" of his pension back to the council.

"I've worked for that money for my whole life and they're taking it off me in tax," he declared.

"They're not getting it because this debt that they say I've got is caused by what they've done.

"It's like they're giving it to me with one hand and taking it away with the other. But I've told them I'll go to prison before I pay it.

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"They're taking my life away from me, so I might as well withdraw from society."

Mr Matthews said the benefits he was receiving changed "without him knowing" and he said the council cited changed legislation as the reason why.

A spokesman for Bassetlaw District Council said that the council's tax reduction scheme for people of working age was "income banded".

He said: "This means that income for working-age claimants affects the entitlement to council tax reduction, although we do disregard certain benefits such as Personal Independent Payments, Disability Living Allowance, War Pensions etc."

Income bands can range from a weekly income of £83.72 to £187.66, with a 65 per cent discount on council tax, to a weekly income of between £248.83 and £340.06, with a 25% discount.

The spokesman added: "In cases where a claimant's income changes, the council tax reduction discount will be recalculated in line with the scheme's income bands."

But the "complicated" system has left Mr Matthews feeling a bit trapped.

He said: "If you have £1,000 saved up in the bank, you have to declare it and then you'll lose however much of your benefits. That means I can't even go on holiday.

"A decent holiday will cost £2,000 for me and Julie, but if I save up £2,000, I'll have to pay it all back in tax. They either need to bring the cost of holidays down or put the threshold up to, say, £5,000 so you can actually afford to do things."

Mr Matthews said that he now wants to see the legislation changed to make it "fairer".

The 59-year-old added: "People who are carers, people who take their pensions out early, they're all getting penalised for this money. They're saying they won't put my council tax rate back to what it was because of the legislation, but I'm saying that's wrong.

"Disability Living Allowance isn't means-tested, so Carer's Allowance shouldn't be. If it wasn't for those carers doing that job, they would have to pay a professional carer a lot more than £69 a week.

"The carer is saving the Government money. It's a very complicated system, but it's all wrong – and it needs to be seriously looked at."


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