Hi there, DK!
Thanks for picking up the blog of the TPA protest and my appearance in the kangaroo court yesterday.
I just wanted to clarify some points. First, the property in question was semi-derelict and "unfit for human habitation"; it was declared as such by the Environmental Health and Housing Officers of the local authority [Hertsmere Council] and not merely unoccupied. In 1999, the law was amended to make unused properties chargeable if they were fit to live in; however, those that were deemed "unfit for human habitation" remained exempt.
Although my property met these criteria (and more!), the relevant report was not carried out until three years after the local council started charging, and the report was then, apparently, buried by the local authority (presumably so that they could carry on charging Council Tax whilst not having to provide any services).
I would like to reiterate that my property could not be lived in without spending tens of thousands of pounds—money that I simply did not have at the time (between 2000–2004). It was concerning the tax that was charged at this time that the court case concerned. The amount concerned is actually nearer to £3,000 than the £10,000 quoted in your blog [Sorry; the audio was very indistinct at that point—DK].
The property has subsequently been restored and the Council Tax paid since 2004, although the property was not certified as being habitable until 2006. I hope that you will be able to amend your site to include these details.
As for the case itself... well... It lasted barely ten minutes. The judge merely pointed out that she was "not here to decide over Council policy: just whether or not the previous court orders had been complied with". It does make one wonder what—precisely—such courts are for. Still, I am afraid that you will have to take my word for that brief report: such is the transparency of British justice that no reporter was allowed into the court room.
Thanks, Rick Stratton.
So, there you have it, ladies and gents: thank fuck for our benign state, eh? Occasionally, I think that perhaps bringing funding and services down to a more local level would be a good thing: but then I am reminded—usually by Private Eye—that local authorities are at least as corrupt and authoritarian as central government.