Welsh Government announces plans to abolish imprisonment for council tax non-payment

The Centre welcomes plans announced by Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford this morning to launch a review into the use of imprisonment for council tax non-payment. 

"My view is that getting into debt is not a crime," said Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford. "The sanction of imprisonment is an outdated and disproportionate response to a civil debt issue. There is significant additional cost to the public purse of imprisoning individuals and such action does nothing to address the reasons for the debt owed to the local authority or to reduce the debt. In many cases, it makes the situation worse."

Melanie Woolcock, a vulnerable Welsh woman unlawfully imprisoned for failing to pay her council tax spoke on Good Morning Wales about her experience of being sent to prison for her inability to pay. She has been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of this experience. She asks, "Why should you be punished for being poor?" You can listen back to her interview on BBC iPlayer at minute 1:41:30. 

The Centre supported the legal challenge that got Melanie her freedom back, and has been campaigning for the end of the use of imprisonment for council tax non payment. 

Naima Sakande, Women's Justice Advocate says "This morning's news is a welcome acknowledgement that poverty is not a crime. For too long, vulnerable people have lived with the threat of prison hanging over their heads when they can't make ends meet. It's the government's job to support those struggling financially, not to subject them to the trauma of imprisonment. We applaud the Welsh government for leading the way in justice for the poor. It's time for the British Government to do the same for vulnerable people in England. Time is up for this arcane policy." 

Naima SakandeComment