Clive Soley pitches in to Pensioner Row

Poverty of 83-year-old Elizabeth Winkfield’s “untrue”

Local MP Clive Soley, a former chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said most of the information in the media about the poverty of 83-year-old Elizabeth Winkfield’s was “untrue”.

Miss Winkfield, 83, from Westward Ho! in Devon, has said she is prepared to go to prison rather than comply with a liability order made by a court for non-payment of some of her council tax.

Last year the tax rose by 18% but Miss Winkfield said she paid only 2.5% more than the previous year because it seemed “a reasonable amount”.

Mr Soley warned the public to read between the lines of press reports of her campaign, suggesting she was supported by an anti-EU party and being paid £10,000 for her story.

Miss Winkfield's case has received a lot of media coverage and she has appeared on television, talking about the public support that her stance had attracted. Mr Soley told MPs: “I do think this case that has received some publicity does need to be spelled out in a bit more detail in order to advise people to read carefully what they see in the papers.

“The story sounded largely untrue when I saw the figures involved and it transpires, of course, that the lady involved is withholding her council tax because of her objection to certain aspects of the European Union.

“She is being supported in that by the United Kingdom Independence Party, who has involved Max Clifford who is handling the publicity. And she is receiving £10,000 from the Daily Mail for this story. He said he objected strongly to the way the press had presented her as being in poverty.

“Had the stories in the press been true that she was only receiving £112 per month, she would clearly have been receiving less than she was entitled to and she would not have had to pay any council tax anyway. So nearly all the story was untrue.”

“It really is irresponsible of the press to use stories like this in order to scare people and that is what they are doing.”

Instead, they should use the case to make people aware of available benefits, he suggested.

24th February 2004

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