Aylesbury woman continues climate change council tax protest despite owing £3,000
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A 73-year-old woman has vowed to continue not paying her council tax as a form of climate protest against Buckinghamshire Council.
Dr Jane McCarthy, who has lived in Aylesbury for 15 years, owes the council more than £3,000 in council tax from the last two years.
The mother-of-two, who has two grandchildren, is protesting the council’s refusal to stop banking with Barclays due to the bank investing in fossil fuels.
She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “For me it is very much a matter of conscience.
“I am a Quaker and if I am paying my council tax, I know it is being used in ways that are helping to destroy the future of life on earth.”
The council denied it was contributing to climate change by banking with Barclays and said that non-payment of council tax was a “serious” matter that could be dealt with by the courts.
Barclays financed fossil fuel companies with more than £150 billion – mostly Exxon Mobil – between 2016 and 2022.
This is more than any other UK bank, according to a 2023 report by the Rainforest Action Network and others.
The bank claims it is expanding its “green and sustainable financing activities”, whilst reducing “financed emissions”, including coal, oil and gas.
Meanwhile, Bucks Council’s Pension Fund has £63 million invested in fossil fuels, according to campaign group Divest UK.
Dr McCarthy, who is part of the Council Tax Strike movement, said she was concerned about the impact of climate change on future generations and would continue her strike.
She said: “They have said that they are going to continue pursuing the amounts that I owe.”
She added: “I have grandchildren. I have no idea what their future is going to be like… I am so frightened for their future.”
The academic, who is a reader in family studies, suffers from an incurable form of blood cancer after being diagnosed in 2015.
She said: “Because of my health issues, I don’t go out and join activities on the street… But this is one way that I can say, ‘Not in my name’.
Dr McCarthy claimed that the council has decided not to send the bailiffs around to her home, despite her non-payment of council tax.
The protester added that other countries, including those in the global south, are disproportionately affected by climate change.
She said: “They are making decisions that are contributing to actions that mean the planet is at very dire risk.
“There are so many parts of the world that are already being devastated by the climate emergency and very often they are places that have not contributed to it all.”
Councillor John Chilver said: “Buckinghamshire Council is not contributing to climate change by continuing to bank with Barclays.”
He said that the council’s contract with Barclays is for the provision of a current account banking service, chosen through an open procurement process, which at the time “did not include net zero selection questions”.
He added: “Council tax pays for a range of essential services for the local community and as a local authority, we have a legal duty to collect it.
“Delays in collection or non-recovery of debts leads to high administration costs and results in lower resources available for vital council services.
“Residents have a legal duty to pay council tax and non-payment or delayed payment is a very serious matter.
“The council has a number of different options to secure the funds owed, that will ultimately be dealt with by the courts if not resolved.
“We would not comment on the personal circumstances of any resident.”
Barclays has been approached for comment.