An ex-prisoner’s council tax dispute with Reading Borough Council (RBC) will not be investigated by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

The ombudsman for benefits and taxation said there was ‘insufficient evidence of injustice’ to investigate the complaint.

Mr X wanted the council to waive court costs of £122, which he incurred after he stopped paying council tax in 2018/19 because RBC refused to grant him tax exemption for his time in prison.

The council refused to grant the exemption because the prison service said Mr X was in prison for not paying council tax, and so he was not eligible.

After investigating, the council found out Mr X was not imprisoned for failing to pay council tax and awarded the exemption for 2015 and 2016 ‘promptly’, according to the ombudsman.

Mr X was left with £122 in court costs but the ombudsman said he should not have stopped paying council tax.

The ombudsman said: “I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of injustice.

“It is unfortunate this happened but this was not due to fault by the council.

“The council was entitled to rely on information from the prison service especially as Mr X never explained why he was in prison.”

The former prisoner stopped paying his council tax for 2018/19 because the council had not awarded the exemption and was not, in his view, responding.

RBC sent a reminder and a summons, and the court then issued a liability order.

Mr X incurred court costs of £122.

The ombudsman said the council should have told Mr X he could appeal to the Valuation Tribunal but said he still would have had to pay his council tax pending the outcome of an appeal.

The man complained in July 2018, disputing the arrears and referring to the council not replying to his letters.

RBC has accepted it did not respond to the points Mr X made in August 2017 about his council tax from 2015 and 2016.

The council will now consider these points and write to Mr X in relation to the historic council tax.

The ombudsman added: “Mr X did not incur any costs for the period he was in prison. All the costs stem from his decision not to pay his council tax in 2018.

“Even if there is a dispute, the law does not allow people to withhold council tax so there are no grounds to ask the council to waive the costs.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is a service that investigates complaints from the public about councils and some other bodies providing public services in England.