Climate change protesters campaign outside court as legal battle continues between local authority and Aylesbury woman

Protesters stood outside High Wycombe Magistrates Court in protest while Bucks Council temporarily withdrew its claim against an Aylesbury woman.

By James Lowson
Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 11:50 am

Jane McCarthy has been withholding her council tax payments all year in protest against the local authority’s partnership with Barclays.

Bucks Council has temporarily withdrawn its case against the retired Aylesbury doctor, but says it plans to proceed with legal action against her.

Jane and other campaigners have stopped council tax payments due to the council’s partnership with the bank that invests the most into fossil fuels in Europe.

Campaigners outside High Wycombe Magistrates Court

Campaigners who have held discussions with councillors feel that “no real attempt” has been made by officials to address their concerns.

They want the Council Pension Fund committee to engage directly with them on climate change matters.

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A petition the campaigners launched challenging the council to give up its fossil fuel funding has gained more than 900 signatures.

Dr Jane McCarthy

Divest UK calculates that Bucks Council’s Pension Fund has invested £63 million into fossil fuels.

Jane who was unable to attend the hearing in person said: “I hate withholding my council tax, which is so needed for local services. I have the money ready to pay, but, as a Quaker and a grandmother, I feel I have a moral responsibility to avoid handing it over when I know it’s being used in ways that are creating such terrible harm to humanity and this beautiful planet, and creating an unlivable future for all younger people today.

"I hope very much the council will change its ways and ensure it uses publicly money responsibly, in light of the science and the deep public concerns about the urgent emergency, with the urgency of the crisis becoming ever more apparent as we swelter in the UK’s first-ever heat emergency.”

Buckinghamshire Council Pension Fund is managed by Brunel Pension Partnership, a pension pool that manages Local Government Pension Schemes for eight other local authorities with Investments totaling around £30 billion.

Brunel says it recognises that global heating needs to be kept to within 1.5C, and is committed to keeping this “well below” 2C.

It has told South West Action on Pensions that the company is staunchly against divestment from fossil fuel companies, and believes “engagement”, where shareholdings are continued to retain influence on these companies, is the best way to achieve Net Zero.

Bucks Council declined to comment on the campaign as the case is ongoing.

But Councillor John Chilver told The Bucks Herald in April: “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 administrative 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 that will ultimately be dealt with by the courts if not resolved.

“Where residents have concerns about the council they should raise this with their local Councillor in the first instance who can raise it on their behalf.

“Buckinghamshire Council is fully committed to addressing the climate crisis and protecting our environment for future generations and has set out its Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy.”