Notes from Miscellaneous Anti-Poll Tax Newsletters

Today I continue my scan through some of the material at The Sparrows’ Nest Library’s archive of Poll Tax resistance ephemera.

The issue of Woodlands Against the Poll Tax News included this news:

In Rutherglen the Regional Council had a bitter taste of what is to come if they think they can use Sheriff Officers and Warrant sales to bully us into paying.

Janet McGinn refused to register or to pay the fines for not registering. The Council singled her out for rough treatment and sent in the Sheriff Officers to “poind” her belongings. (This is when they value your “luxury” goods prior to a warrant sale.)

The threat of a 1,000 protesters [sic] outside her home made the Council cancel the “poinding”. Even so, 300 people did protest there and went on to picket and occupy the Sheriff Officer’s office.

The message is clear: God help the Sheriff Officer who enters here.

The issue reported that:

This has been seen time and time again when poindings have been attempted (after refusing to pay fines for not registering for the poll tax) in Rutherglen, Barrhead, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Irvine. Each time they have failed to get access or have been too timid to show up in the face of protesting neighbours and anti poll tax demonstrators.

What the Council will try to do, and how to stop them

The Woodlands Against the Poll Tax News included this useful summary of the process the councils could follow to try to enforce the poll tax against resisters.

The newsletter of the Stockbridge/New Town Anti Poll Tax Group told readers:

There are over 40 anti Poll Tax groups in Lothian. Throughout the city we have set up task forces to meet the sheriff officers if they turn up at your door. Ring your local group (list on back) and they will arrange a “welcoming committee” outside your home to physically prevent a poinding or warrant sale taking place.

It also noted this example of institutional resistance (or at least that’s one interpretation):

The four main Scottish banks have written to Scotland’s Regional Councils stating that they simply could not deal with hundreds of thousands of bank account arrestments of non-payers. The banks have called for assurances from the Councils that they will not proceed with mass arrestments.

And it recommended this red-tape-tangling tactic:

Every year we are supposed to re-register for the poll tax. If you have received your form for ignore it or send it back “not known at this address.” Our experience is that you can frustrate registration for many months without incurring a fine. It all helps to stop the poll tax.

One page in that newsletter was devoted to practical advice on how to frustrate government countermeasures. For example, to frustrate bank account seizures, people were counseled to move their accounts out of major banks, to change the mailing address on their bank accounts to be different from the address with which they were registered for the poll tax, to open multiple accounts under multiple variants of their name or under a new name, to hold money in childrens’ bank accounts, to cash checks rather than depositing them, and to deposit money in a safe deposit box rather than a bank account.

The Somerset Clarion covered the May Day action at the home of John Roach of Roach & Co., the bailiffs who had been hired by Councils to carry out property seizures and sales. Roach wisely stayed away from home that day, but “a small army of non-payers… surrounded his house, bricked up his front door, & held a mock auction of goods from his garage. Tut, tut, Mr Roach, fancy leaving your garage unlocked — none of us would do that, not with people like you around!”

The newsletter of the Sneinton Anti-Poll Tax Union noted this synergy with organized labor:

Among the speakers at the Sneinton APTU… was a housing clerk from the London Borough of Greenwich where 170 clerical staff went on strike because of the Poll Tax workload as so many people are claiming rebates.

The Newsletter of the Beeston Anti Poll Tax Union added:

DSS offices have also gone on strike in different parts of the country, Sheffield refusing to take Poll Tax from claimants and Glasgow and Edinburgh have taken similar action.

The Clapham/Brixton newsletter, Community Resistance Against the Poll Tax noted:

A virus has appeared on the computer system holding the register in Edinburgh. Every ten minutes, one name disappears from the register!

The Poll Tax office in Islington was also attacked and damaged by an arson attack.

Tower Hamlets council had 43% of their forms returned, meaning that 40,000 people have not returned their forms. Also 1,700 forms were “not genuine” with insults scrawled on them, etc.

In Greenwich, the Civil & Public Servants Association passed a resolution not to deduct poll tax payments (20% of the full amount) from claimants cheques.