Defiant Aylesbury grandmother continues climate council tax protest

She explained her reasons for continuing with the strike at a court hearing yesterday
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A grandmother from Aylesbury has vowed to continue withholding from paying her council taxes in protest.

Yesterday (20 March), Dr Jane McCarthy, appeared in court an additional liability order made against her by Bucks Council.

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For over two years the mother-of-two has withheld from paying council tax to protest the authority’s pension fund with Barclays. Data from the Rainforest Action found that Barclays was the biggest funder of fossil fuels in Europe between 2016 and 2021.

Dr Jane McCarthyDr Jane McCarthy
Dr Jane McCarthy

Bucks Council has defended the deal with Barclays and consistently said it has a legal duty to collect council tax.

Yesterday’s order was the third one issued against Dr McCarthy during her two-plus years of non-payments. However she is now planning to take legal action against the council via the Local Government Ombudsman.

She claims that the council has failed to uphold national standards in regard to vulnerable people who are in council tax arrears.

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Previously the council has assured the woman in her 70s that bailiffs would not be sent round to her home. Dr McCarthy is vulnerable and has been shielding after several cancer diagnoses in recent years weakened her immune system. Due to health concerns she appeared at High Wycombe Magistrates Court via a video link.

Dr McCarthy has made stage 1 and stage 2 complaints in regards to the council’s conduct and claims both were upheld.

She read a statement in court explaining why she was continuing with her protest, saying: “But I am ready and willing to pay my council tax arrears as soon as I know my money won’t be contributing to the destruction of a liveable future for my children and grandchildren and all life on earth.”

She went on to criticise the council for not engaging with environmental campaigners and noted that other authorities had moved away from pension partnerships with Barclays.

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Councillor John Chilver told the BBC: “Buckinghamshire Council is not contributing to climate change by continuing to bank with Barclays.”

He added that the contract with Barclays was agreed "using central government's selection questionnaire, which at the time did not include zero carbon selection questions."

Previously the councillor said: “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.

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“Residents have a legal duty to pay council tax and non-payment or delayed payment is a very serious matter.”

Barclays says: “We believe that Barclays can make the greatest difference as a bank by working with customers and clients as they transition to a low-carbon business model, focussing on facilitating the finance needed to change business practices and scale new green technologies.

“This includes many oil and gas companies that are critical to the transition, and have committed significant resources and expertise to renewable energy. Where companies are unwilling to reduce their emissions consistent with internationally accepted pathways, they may find it difficult to access financing, including from Barclays.”