Anorak News | Pensioner Booked

Pensioner Booked

by | 27th, September 2005

‘WHO needs the paltry winter fuel allowance, Meals on Wheels and unlabeled ‘mystery’ tins donated by children for their schools’ harvest festivals when you can do as pensioner Sylvia Hardy has done and go to jail?

‘It was either prison or a week in Cleethorpes. And I’ve been to Cleethorpes’

In jail you get regular hot food, as much hot water as you can shower in, a handy toilet in your room and the added benefit of a warden who makes sure you’re tucked up safe in your bed of a night.

Mindful of that, perhaps we should feel relieved for 73-year-old Sylvia Hardy, who, as the Mail says on its front page, has been jailed for seven days for refusing to pay Exeter City Council £53.71 in arrears on her council tax plus £10 costs.

Sylvia might even be the silver-haired tip of an iceberg as the Express talks about a “nation of martyrs” and says how thousands more pensioners have stated that they too will fight the power and refuse to pay their council tax.

But before our prisons are turned into rest homes for the elderly and rebellious, the Mail hears from the woman at the centre of the story. “I am not afraid,” says she, deftly adopting a slogan of recent times to her own ends.

But Magistrates’ chairman Lewis Crowden (age not supplied), has little sympathy for her. “Miss Hardy,” he says, addressing her in the manner of a teacher admonishing a disruptive pupil, “if everyone paid their debts on the basis of what they thought was appropriate, eventually the country would descend into anarchy and you would be the first to complain if that happened.”

That’s judgemental stuff even for a judge. But Crowden saves his most stinging brickbat for his punch line: “You may think you are a martyr but you’re not. You are a foolish woman.”

But however right or wrong Sylvia is, she’s certainly not alone. And while she checks into Eastwood Park Prison in Gloucestershire for a bargain week-long break – with Maeve Binchy’s latest book, another tome about poverty in the 19th century and the chance to meet new people and see new places – her supporters chant “Pompous” and Rubbish” at the Beak.

Others, just like Sylvia, have seen their council tax bills rocket in recent years. As the Sun says, over the past four years, the council tax on the Sylvia’s property has risen by 38 per cent against a rise in her pension from her job as a social worker by 6.8 per cent over the same period.

In fairness, the Sun says Sylvia agreed to pay only the same percentage rise in her pension, which left her “£53.16” in arrears, cheaper than the Mail’s quoted bill of £53.72 but still too much for the law to abide.

So Sylvia, who is seen in the Sun holding up a banner on which is writ the legend “SYLVIA HARDY PUBLIC ENEMY”, is in choky.

And in going to prison she might have won her battle. As the Sun says, the cost of keeping this felon “caged” is £2,000 a week.

And just think of how long it would have taken Sylvia to save up enough to afford a week away like that…’

Posted: 27th, September 2005 | In: Tabloids Comment | TrackBack | Permalink