#CouncilTax Debt Collection And The Damage To Children

Email sent to Mrs Mary May my Local Councillor in Cornwall

“I’m writing to you as my local Councillor to ask you to protect children and teenagers from the damaging effects of council tax debt collection practices.

There are 12320 children living in 7115 families who have faced council tax debt in our area.

The Children’s Society report, “The Wolf at the Door” highlights how children and teenagers are feeling sad, frightened and worried after routinely coming face to face with bailiffs in their own homes, sent by the local council to demand sudden, unrealistic council tax payments.

Last year, 8176 bailiff referrals were made in Cornwall that’s the equivalent of 31 for every 1,000 households

The Children’s Society report “The Debt Trap” highlighted how a third of families in council tax arrears who sought help from their council found it not helpful at all, whilst their latest research shows that some councils are often demanding the full year’s council tax amount just 14 days after a family or young person misses their first monthly bill, pushing court summons or the threat of bailiffs soon after.

I know that councils are under huge pressure to ensure that as much council tax revenue is collected as promptly as possible, to allow the continued funding of vital services, however, the good practice examples in their report showed that councils can use less damaging techniques, protecting children from bailiffs and giving families time to get independent advice, whilst at the same time collecting more in council tax than the national average. We are encouraging more councils to adopt these practices and review their council tax collection policies to better protect children.

Please can you write to the Leader of the council, asking that Cornwall Council use less damaging collection methods. This would help families and young people get back on their feet – without fear and intimidation. Every child and teenager deserves to feel safe in their own home without being scared of the next knock at the door.

The Children’s Society has also produced an advice sheet to help you support your constituents who face council tax debt.

You can read the report, the advice note and find out more information about the Debt Trap campaign and the work of The Children’s Society by visiting http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-you-can-do/campaign-for-change/council-tax-collection-harm-children

I’d be very grateful if you could let me know what steps you will take to protect children and teenagers from the damaging effects of council tax collection practices. I look forward to hearing from you.”

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Please click on the link and do the same for YOUR area.

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Are Cornwall Council really This Bad To Work For???

Who ‘runs’ Cornwall Council???
Whilst browsing the local Paper website, (The West Briton) I came accross a reader comment.
Are Cornwall Council really this bad to work for???
Is this ‘whistleblower’ correct when he/she states that “White English people who were just given the jobs…” 
or “Management ’employing’ their mates through the back door…” 
“Corrupt staff should be investigated and dismissed, not promoted”

This reader comment needs investigating and fast!!! I for one would like to know the TRUTH!!!Image

“Speaking as an ex-employee I witnessed some appalling behaviour. Although it was perpetrated by a relatively small number of individuals, these individuals permeate all levels of the Council and never seem to be subject to disciplinary action. Appalling openness and variety of racist comments. Numerous individuals being given promotions or put into management positions without any application form, interview or selection process taking place. No surprises that it is White English people who were just given the jobs – nothing like a good bit of indirect institutional racism i.e. it keeps the “foreigners” out (I refer to all the racist comments). One staff member confides in me that they ‘cry every morning’ on the way to work due to their manager ignoring and never speaking to them. I observed another staff member crying at their desk due to their manager changing their workload. Particular staff given pay rises without any written justification e.g. senior manager e-mails HR to increase the pay of employee X and they comply without any question or checks(!) Staff ’employed’ by the Council for months/years outside of the PAYE system to make them invisible on official headcount. Again, these jobs were never advertised. Management ’employing’ their mates through the back door. Management falsifying the results of public consultations – presumably to meet their own agenda? Management falsifying equality & diversity data – presumably to cover-up all the indirect racism and the fact that many jobs are not even advertised? Staff singled out and targeted for bullying and harassment and HR taking no action against the aggressors. In one case a senior staff member was targeted by two junior staff members, made medically ill and then ‘got rid of’. Both aggressors were allowed to ‘step up’ without any of the jobs being advertised. I know of two other staff members who were made medically ill (mix of stress, anxiety, depression) purely due to the manner in which they were treated by management. Senior staff on maternity leave deliberately undermined by junior colleagues who thought they would advance their own career to the detriment of the person on maternity leave. Disgraceful. Staff recruited into Adult Care without any employment checks taking place e.g. employ people first, then carry out employment checks later. I also witnessed HR staff colluding with management to fix the outcome of jobs that were actually advertised e.g. allowing the ‘favourite’ internal candidate to amend the job/person specification to their own advantage. Again, such practises help to keep the “foreigners” out. I am not even going to begin to describe the repugnant manner in which I was treated at Cornwall Council. Quite simply the worst place for bullying, harassment, racism, discrimination and corruption that I have ever worked. In case anyone is wondering, did I file a complaint? No I did not file a complaint. How could I? The “gang” culture would see me got rid of. The usual excuse (lie) that I saw used was “there is no longer any budget for your job.” It would have been me vs THEM (management gang and their HR mates). Nothing would be done, nothing would change. I hope that the Councillors read this and start addressing all the problems. In my opinion I would say that the HR functions are totally ineffective and non-existence. Corrupt staff should be investigated and dismissed, not promoted!!! Feels good to get that off my chest :)”

You can read the full Article and readers comment here: 
http://www.westbriton.co.uk/Cornwall-Council-years-think-s/story-20879510-detail/story.html#comment-4483307#ixzz2xjF1bFLe

Council Tax Criminal?

Today was the day. Yes, it was my turn. My turn to be summonsed to Truro Magistrates Court for non payment of 2013/14 Council Tax. Now, let me be very clear as all the Politicians state…..
“I have NO problem with Council Tax and would happily pay it, ‘if’ I were working”
However, I am not. I am disabled. I have partial sight and Sponylosis to name a couple of my disabilities. As most of you know, last year alot of things changed under the WRA – Welfare Reform Act.
Council Tax Benefit was scrapped and under the Localism Bill powers were handed to Local Authorities to set up their own schemes. To be called CTS – Council Tax Support. So now ALL people of working age, have to contribute to Council Tax.

Whoaaa!!! Most of these people are on some kind of benefit, like myself. I get ESA, some are on JSA, some on IS and so it goes on. We are all expected to pay a certain amount from said Benefits, which, may I remind you all, on EACH and every Benefit Award Notice it clearly states, “This is the amount of money deemed by LAW that you NEED to live on”
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I arrived in plenty of time. No sooner had I got there that Linda Ryan  (Cornwall Council Recovery Officer) came straight up to me and said “I’ll be back to speak with you in a little bit” Hmm, I thought sounds ominous!!
Time went on and I was then called in to a little side room, with the same Mrs Ryan. She stated there isn’t a lot of point in us discussing things as I know you’ll want to speak to the Magistrates and I know how you feel about all of this”

First up, a lady that I had a brief chance to speak with before hand. Dear Soul, she felt so embarrassed and really didn’t know what to say. She said she only owed 50 odd pounds and had really struggled to pay that as her husband was disabled etc. I explained to her to simply say that she is finding it extremely hard and the costs etc would only make things worse.
After she had taken her ‘Oath’ (will come on to that in a mo) Mrs Ryan asked for Liability order etc, the poor lady who was very upset by it all explained her situation. The Magistrates were kind enough to agree that NO costs would be ordered, they thanked her for coming, (as they did all three of us that asked to speak) and  then told her she had to pay the ‘actual balance of £17:?? within 21 days. With that she thanked me as she left the Courtroom.
Next in was a poor chap, wheeling his way through the many seats on his motorized scooter. I did hear him start talking to which the ‘Winger’ Magistrate questioned he hadn’t taken an Oath. The Clerk, Mr Paul Miles asked Linda Ryan if she wanted him to swear an oath, to which she replied, “no it’s ok, I am happy for him to continue”!!!
Again, similar circumstances, finding it very hard to pay last years, let alone this years. Many changes in Benefits had not helped his situation stated Mrs Ryan.
Result was that again NO costs at all were ordered. The Gentleman then struggled to make his way out of the room.

Now it was my turn.
“Michelle Kent” the Clerk called. I proceeded to hobble to the stand where we were told to be. Immediately I was offered to sit, which I gladly did as my back and neck were really giving me grief and guess who forgot to take some pain relief with her??? – I digress.
The Clerk then asked me which I prefer, to take an Oath or Affirmation. I replied, “Erm, that is the first thing I need to question. I have been in this building on several Council Tax Cases, along with Mr Adrian Waters (other Cornwall Council Recovery Officer) and not all Clerks insist people swear. Why was this?? Why today? Why now? Why me?” This obviously rattled him as very quickly he became all officious and spoke to me (but looking at the Bench) in a stern, slightly louder voice “….because, it could be very detrimental in how the Magistrates deal with you etc” I stopped him and said “Look, I have no problem taking an Affirmation, I just wanted to know why some do and some don’t.” I really feel that some Clerks use this as ‘scare tactics’ as there was NO Court Recorder present and NO transcript recorded. It’s such a shame that we are made to feel like Criminals.
Affirmation made, we continue….
Mrs Ryan stood, made her application to the Court. She said that I had “lots of change of circumstances and that I had not made any attempt to pay.” I was then asked if there was any thing I wanted to say….. Yay!! My turn.

First of all, I sent an email to the Court back on August 19th 2013. I had requested that ALL Magistrates were to be shown my email. Yep, you guessed it, they hadn’t seen it. I stated, whilst showing them this picture that things were reminiscent of 20+ years ago, when the Magistrates were saying ‘Don’t Blame Us’ etc. Well, Clerk Miles stopped me in my tracks as he rightly said, this wasn’t strictly to do with my case. I replied it was but I will move on to my next question……
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“Please, if a Parliamentary answer given by Bridgit Prentice (Justice Secretary Feb 2009) shows that to raise a Liability Order costs only £3 then why were Cornwall Council charging everyone £20??” Mrs Ryan’s and Mr Water’s faces were a picture when Clerk Miles said, “I don’t know, let’s ask them”….. Guess why? Well, how about this, Cornwall Council, charges £20 because of the numerous letters, stamps and follow up letter that they have to send out.” Get this!!!! She also stated that “her time and her wages were also part of  the equation” Well, I was shocked by this and will write to Cornwall Council in due course!
I also mentioned about Cornwall Council NOT discussing their ‘Hardship Fund’ at Full Council and how it was capped to 50% if they were to help people. However, this Hardship Fund has changed for the coming year to the full 100% ‘if’ awarded.

And so to the clinker!!!!
I asked “Please can someone tell me why a Letter from my Solicitor dated November 8th 2013 to the Council was, to my knowledge never answered?” Clerk Miles allowed me to read out the Letter as the Council denied any knowledge of it…. it reads
“”….We write to request that the Local Authority uses it’s discretion as the Billing Authority under Section 13A(1) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to reduce the amount payable in respect of our Client’s Council Tax Liability. The Local Authority has the discretion to reduce the amount payable as it sees fit and this includes a discretion under Section 13A(2) to reduce that liability to nil…..””
Again, the two Recovery Officers had no knowledge of the letter. I agreed that they could have my copy. It also transpires that ‘they’ the two CHIEF RECOVERY Officers, didn’t know that there is provision in the LG Finance Act 1992 to allow them to take such action!!!!!!
The Magistrates then granted the Liability Order but, they were pleased to tell me that NO SUMMONS OR LIABILITY ORDER COSTS would be added to further increase my debt. – Result!!

An application was then made to grant Liability Orders to the other 939 People ‘en bloc’, in their absence. “Granted” – with a smile!

Before I left the building, I spoke with both Recovery Officers, they both deny any knowledge that they (as a Council) are allowed to reduce the debt. Mr Waters said that he had never heard of it. So I have said to them, when you do find out, you can consider it for me!!

So, what’ll be next in store for me…….. Bailiffs? …..Attachment of ESA, which is what the Law deems I need to live on???
All this stress and being made to feel like a Criminal, for what? Aah, yes, this Government wanting to persecute the poorest, rather than go after the Tax Avoiders/Evaders or maybe look at their own MPs expenses!!!

Council Tax In The Courts

On Friday of last week I became aware that in my own County of Cornwall there was to be a sitting of Court to deal with Council Tax Defaulters in the County. Over 1000 Summonses had been issued. Sad times indeed!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-23141282

Upon my arrival at Truro Magistrates, I was greeted by the Security Guards who stated, “aah you are Michelle Kent, we were told to ‘expect’ you”

Hmm, what were they expecting? I am a 40 something half blind woman that was drugged up on Tramadol in order just to be able to go.

I would say at a guess a couple of dozen people turned up, they were ushered in to side rooms and Council Officials negotiated with them in order to make ‘an arrangement to pay’. Nearly all of these people left the Court building after this process.

Also Cornwall Council decided to Summons a DECEASED MAN!!! 

Anyway in to the Court we go. When entering Court number One, the atmosphere was chilling. Afterall Courts are not meant to be welcoming.

On the bench were Mrs Fiona Roberts JP  and (Winger) Mr Thomas. Clerk was Mr Paul Kinsley. The Cornwall Council Official Mr Adrian Waters (We shall refer to him as AW) was also present.

There was 4 other people, The security Guard, Myself, My Son and a Journalist.

Cornwall Council issued Council Tax procedures as such:

12/03/2013 Bills Issued

23/04/2013 Reminders

21/05/2013 Final Reminder

14/06/2013 Summons

CASE ONE:

First defendant (we shall call her JL) was called. She appeared frightened, I imagine it is probably the first time she has set foot in a ‘Court of Law’. We went through the norm of swearing on the Bible etc (as JL had no objection to that). Then the Clerk proceeded to tell the Lady that “…although defendants are allowed the right to speak, most don’t usually bother…”  Make of that what you will. The Cornwall Council (CC) Official (AW) then proceeded to be all officious and state why the Council was seeking a Liability Order. JL replied “I am on Benefits and it has all been so confusing as I had not recieved any other communication from CC etc. It is in the hands of my Support Worker and she is helping me.” Well, in the end, it was ordered that JL WAS Liable and that CC should communicate with the Support Worker to see if she was eligible for any ‘relief’. It was also ordered that JL should have her ‘costs’ waived as she was on Benefits. JL then left the Court shaking like a leaf.

CASE TWO: We will Refer to these as Mr.Mrs B.

All the usual took place, AW says he is seeking Liability Order and Mr B swears on the Bible. Mr B is looking far more confident than his wife who was now sat by herself on the other side of the room. It appears Mr and Mrs B are disputing the amounts and have lodged a complaint etc. He told the Court that his case was in the process of going to Tribunal. Now, after alot of to and fro’ing between the Clerk and Mrs Roberts it was so ordered that the Liability Order should be granted on the proviso that ‘if’ Mr and Mrs B’s Tribunal was sucessful then any monies paid shall be rembursed. It was determined that Mr and Mrs B were on Benefits and credit to Mrs Roberts, she did waive the costs. Now I am no ‘Legal Beagle’ ‘but’ can a Liability Order be granted if the case is in the tribunal process? I really felt with this one that Mrs Roberts wanted to adjourn but it was the Clerk that coerced her in to granting the order. Mr and Mrs B left with Mr B looking relieved but very disappointed.

CASE THREE:

We shall refer to the Defendant as Mr T. A Gentleman came in to the Courtroom but refused to go and stand in the ‘Doc’. We shall call him Mr Z. The Clerk was repeating himself over and over, “Are you the Defendant?” “NO, no I am not says Mr Z, I am Mr T’s representative so I do NOT have to go stand in any Doc. “but we need you to swear an Oath” says the Clerk. Mr Z replied, “This is MY Court you invited me here and I have to swear nothing” With that, Mrs Roberts said in a most assertive fashion “Actually, this is MY Court” (Really? since when?) Mr Z was very quick to retaliate, he asked her if she had sworn Oath as he hadn’t seen her do so. After a good 15 minutes of the Clerk trying to decide whether this was Mr T or not he told the gentleman to leave the Court! Several times in fact. By now the Security Guard was on his feet. he tried to hold the gentlemans arm to which the Gentleman declared ” Do NOT touch me or YOU will be arrested” It was getting very heated. The poor young Journo next to me put down her pen and sat well back in her seat. After several more minutes of the Clerk, Mr Z and the Security Guard all talking at once the ‘Panic Alarm’ was set off and 1 more Guard came in to  the room. The poor man, who I would say was late 50’s early 60’s was swiftly and forcibly ejected from the Court and carted away by the Local Constabulary as they (The Court) could not ‘establish his identity’. All very well ‘but’ as it happens, a letter was read out after by the Clerk. It stated that Mr Z would be there with ‘Power of Attorney’ to represent Mr T!!! It was a long letter and after much eye rolling from Mrs Roberts, the Clerk sat down. Had this letter been presented to the Magistrate before the fracas then the case could have been heard. Again, it seemed to me that the Clerk knew exactly what was happening and in my opinion he was partly to blame for Mr Z becoming upset. What was the result I hear you cry, well Mr T WAS granted a Liability Order in his absence!!

Now to the rest of people summonsed. The CC official stood there and asked for 1079 Liability Orders to be granted for non payment of Council Tax for 2013/14. Mrs Roberts nodded and agreed that the Orders were given ‘en bloc/masse’. Council Official duely made his thanks. He then started to  bundle up his papers and pack away.

With that I stood, made acknowledgement to Mrs Roberts and duely left the Courtroom.

So there you have it Council Tax In The Court.

I believe that EVERYONE summonsed for non payment of Council Tax SHOULD attend the Court and have their say. This is your right, don’t be afraid to use it!!

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/council-tax-huge-queues-outside-2033516#ixzz2YLZRzhf1

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