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200220 | Council tax write-off was "a gesture of goodwill, and not an admission of liability" says County Hall, as magistrates s

Council tax write-off was “a gesture of goodwill, and not an admission of liability” says County Hall, as magistrates say that Hayle woman can have her day in court

Posted By theboss on 20th February 2020

By Graham Smith

Cornwall councillors were not involved in the decision to write off thousands of pounds in unpaid council tax for a Hayle woman who accuses County Hall of being complicit in damage to her home.

Mel Sheridan is currently facing proceedings at Truro magistrates’ court for failing to pay her current year’s tax bill. But she says the council had previously written off around £3,000 in tax - which she refuses to pay because of a 14-year-old dispute about an historic underground water pipe which runs close to her home.

A County Hall statement today (Thursday) said the decision to write off Ms Sheridan’s previous tax bill was made “as a gesture of goodwill” and was not an admission of liability. The decision to write off the tax bill had been made by a senior official and elected councillors were not involved.

Magistrates yesterday adjourned hearing a liability order against Ms Sheridan so that she can prepare her case for a full trial, which will not be heard before the end of March.

Ms Sheridan’s end-of-terrace home has needed under-pinning after the road outside her home started to subside in 2006. Both the council and South West Water deny any responsibility.

A year ago the council considered approaching the Coal Authority, which is the statutory body tasked with making good heritage industrial infrastructure. County Hall has not said if it is still trying to progress the issue with the authority, but a council statement said:

“Cornwall Council is seeking a liability order against Ms Mel Sheridan of Penpol Road, Hayle due to non-payment of council tax.

“Two years of previous council tax demands have already been written off by the council. The council did this to assist Ms Sheridan and as a gesture of goodwill, not as any admission of liability or responsibility for the issues she has faced.

“The decision was made by a Strategic Director and members were not involved. Cornwall Council is obliged to collect council tax from all residents who are liable to pay council tax regardless of any other disputes the resident may have with the council. We have therefore followed normal recovery process with this case.

“We are aware that the background to Ms Sheridan’s actions is a dispute with Cornwall Council and South West Water regarding the adoption of a water pipe which was considered to have caused structural damage to her home.

“This is a separate matter, and whilst the council has previously sought to assist Mrs Sheridan by undertaking investigations into the pipe, and is sympathetic to the need to progress this, the council does not consider that it is liable for the pipe. We do not know who is responsible for it, but we are clear that it is not, and never has been, the council.”

Dozens of protestors joined Ms Sheridan at the court yesterday. The Coal Authority has been approached for comment.