Tax protest is the wrong way to end conflicts

COMMENT: Going above and beyond is all in a day’s work at QA

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Hedley Lester’s anti-war beliefs are admirable. His is a noble cause.

In a democracy he is free to voice his opinions as are those who take the opposing view and support the ‘might is right’ approach to various conflicts around the globe.

But, by refusing to pay his council tax, we do not believe he is going about it the right way.

For as much as many might support Mr Lester’s pacifist stand, refusing to hand over the tax which pays for local services is, we believe, wrong-headed.

It is especially ill-conceived in these straitened times when every penny counts for town halls.

The News often reports councils’ attempts to chase those who don’t or won’t pay. And quite rightly so.

We all have to pay our taxes, like it or not.

Mr Lester says he will not pay Havant Borough Council the £1,100 he has owed it for the past year. He says it would be contributing to an ‘immoral’ war in Afghanistan and he will not pay until Britain ends its involvement there.

Mr Lester claims that domestic and international laws stipulate that when war is illegal, the collection and payment of council tax to the government is a war crime.

As we report on page 5 today Mr Lester says: ‘I am trying to achieve the end of this country’s illegal and immoral use of war.’

He also says: ‘My case is that to pay the demanded money would involve me and any of the council’s agents in serious crimes.’

Mr Lester argued that the money going to Havant council went into a central pot of government cash.

But we agree with the council’s representative who gave evidence to Portsmouth magistrates that the money most certainly is spent on local services.

And by not paying Havant he is also depriving Hampshire County Council of its share of his bill – the authority that maintains the roads, runs Havant’s schools and the social services that area enjoys.

So while we have some sympathy with his pacifist beliefs, we think Mr Lester needs to find other ways of making his protest – ways which do not directly affect his community by denying it much-needed cash.