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summonsed for council tax

(32 Posts)
enichol Wed 13-Mar-13 22:34:27

Hi all

I hope you can help! Been trying to deal with this for a while but not got very far.

My other half and I have recently been summonsed to Leicester magistrates Court for non-payment. We have been emailing the council and they have been replying, but rather robotically. We were receiving full council tax benefit under self employment as my other half is self employed but is disabled due to his Army service and his work suffers. So much so that he rarely breaks even and mostly loses investment money. He continues because its better than giving in to his disabilty and doing nothing, and better than signing onto soul destroying job centre plus for unemployment - in any case his disability makes him unable to keep some appointments, he has been described as having a low immune system and ME. I was was made redundant and since having 2 children found it hard to get another job and so stay at home with the kids and so Im not registered as anything!

He was asked to fill in self employment form by the council which he did and gave in to their offices. In return he was sent a Bill informing him that we had been awarded full CT benefit (it was the same the previous year and our circumstances had not changed for the better, in fact cashflow got worse). However, we recently recieved a Summons for non payment. On emailing the Council we have been told that a few weeks after our full CTB Bill they had sent another Bill which informed us that we had to pay around 65 – 70 percent of the Bill. I have not seen this Bill nor any other follow up demands they now say they sent. the last we knew of was the Bill detailing full CTB.

I had been hoping that they would see sense and reinstate the Bill we did get, but they simply say that we need to pay the ‘outstanding’ amount. they cannot even tell me why we seem to have been awarded a partial discount as only 65-70 percent is being demanded.

We go to court in a next week and my husbands health isnt great so I am concerned about him being able to go to defend us (as I say his erratic illness makes it hard to keep any appointments and sometimes he can fall asleep for many hours at a time and cannot be roused - several times in excess of 24 hours). I am suffering with my pregnancy and have already been to Hospital twice with hyperemesis and i am spending most of my time at the moment gagging and trying to sip water. We do not have any disposable to pay anything to them, as we have already been awarded full ctb, in theory we should not owe anything anyway. Also, despite us telling the Council several times in the past that my surname is now my husbands name, they have used my maiden name on the summons. (someone has mentioned to me that the summons is not issued by the court, instead is printed off by the Council and is therefore invaild - is that right?) They have also used my maiden name on the most recent Bill and on the new Bill for next year. (which is a full bill and on the back says that reduction support should now be applied for but in the meantime we have to pay as billed, which could push us into very severe financial troubles.)

Ive read a bit on this site about Council tax and there seems to be some knowledgeable ladies here - so I have my fingers crossed!

Thanks for reading

Potterer Tue 19-Mar-13 17:04:49

Hi, the bill is always produced at the beginning of the year in March for the period 1st April that year to the 31st March the following year, so even if we know you are moving out on 15th May we still have to produce a bill for the whole year.

If someone's circumstances change then the bill is amended to show the correction. So in the case of someone moving we would wait till after the date of the move in case something goes wrong, then we produce a new bill from 1st April to 14th May.

In your case, it appears benefit was awarded at the beginning of the year then those circumstances changed and a bill should have been issued. To be honest your council tax department sounds like a pile of crap. You can print a bill off there and then and send it out to someone, why they haven't done this when they can tell you haven't received it is anybody's guess.

Council Tax and Council Tax benefit are usually two completely different departments, they were where I worked. So there is usually a lack of communication blush Sadly, you always get the same person so if they are useless then you still get the useless person.

We worked on street names, alphabetically so from Aaron Grove to Chester View, and the phone number for that person is printed on those bills rather than a generic number where it goes to the person who has been waiting the longest for a call. If that makes sense.

Personally, I would let it go to court, it is only a magistrates court, there is no record of it on any credit files etc and it is just to give them power to collect the debt.

I would email then mainly as you have a record of your conversation with them. I would ask firstly for a copy of the bill, to see what period it refers to. Do you believe that you have always been entitled to Council Tax Benefit or does it vary with your Husband's health and his ability to work? I am really sorry to hear of his health issues.

Also, I must confess that I have been a SAHM since 2004 so it has been a while but can they not email you a copy of the bill? We introduced a new computer system in 2003 so it meant that was something we could do, all correspondence was scanned in so we didn't have to dog through paper files to find someone's letter etc. Now 9 years later I can't imagine a council still using an old system.

I will check back on this tomorrow to see if there is any update. Must make dinner grin

enichol Wed 20-Mar-13 00:26:28

Thank you again.

Our circumstance has not changed. In fact, if anything its got financially worse due to the disability. However for the purposes of the rules, the circumstances have not changed. So we are puzzled. We did receive a Bill of zero liability and nothing has changed. Come to think of it one think has changed but I would think its unrelated. My husband had been given access to an old workshop, with the understanding that he paid the Rates. It was a tough decision as our money is spread very thinly, but as he is a proud man and not one to simply give in to his illness he took the workshop on using his Military disability pension and had been paying the rates with that. Because he is self employed but not really able to earn much, he thought he could get us out of the sticky patch by using the workshop where he could try to do some work but also sleep there as he needed. Around a month before we received the zero liability Bill for domestic CT he relented and gave up the workship as he had not been able to overcome his illness enough to actually do anything with it that generated profitable income. He had paid some £120 per month on rated for that for some time. I would not have thought that it would have any bearing whatever on our domestic CT but perhaps there has been an admin glitch - it was a different address of course so not sure?

My intention at the moment is to try to put together a Defence to give to a Magistrate. I dont relish either of us going to Court and it will probably have to be my Husband; Although he is on strong medication that makes him permanently drowsy and he tends to fall asleep, even if someone is talking to him. I can barely speak or move from sitting because of Hyperemesis gravidarum. I have also been directed to some information on the Web by some friends and I wonder what you think of the information at 'sheila olivers campaigning website' and click on the button on the left marked 'magistrates court'. In her experience the Council tried to divert her from seeing a magistrate and then she had to wait 2.5 hours to get into the Court. I think my Husband will have to take his duvet! But seriously, he's not very well and that seems an excessive time to wait for a scheduled case. What is your experience?

I will try to put the defence together to email to the Council before the Court date, but they would appear to be adamant to go forward to Court.

CelticPromise Wed 20-Mar-13 07:38:33

Just a quick note on court scheduling. Every hearing in the court list is scheduled for 10am. I do criminal cases and they are heard in order of who is ready first, some courts give priority to custody cases etc. So I would always expect to wait- hopefully all the morning cases are heard by lunchtime but if the court is very busy they might go over until after lunch.

If this is not possible for you you would need to get sick notes as I mentioned above.

Good luck.

enichol Thu 21-Mar-13 00:46:13

Thanks CelticPromise. The schedule is for 2pm

Potterer Thu 21-Mar-13 06:56:13

The business rates bill will have no bearing on the ctax bill. But I would still demand a copy of the bill in question.

Take a print out of the emails between you & the council to show that they don't even answer your questions.

Usually at court people want to make a payment arrangement & to be honest I can't remember who deals with people who want to see the judge, ie whether it is dealt with by a court person or not.

If your husband is going, make the court aware of his medical condition so that hopefully he can be prioritised.

I haven't had a chance to look at the link I'm on my phone with a nosey 6yr old reading this grin

I'll look back later.

CelticPromise Thu 21-Mar-13 08:08:50

Ah then it could be heard any time after 2pm. Ask your husband to speak to the court usher when he arrivesv and hopefully he can be dealt with quickly.

Potterer Fri 22-Mar-13 12:30:30

I have now read Shelia Oliver's stuff on the magistrate's court and to be honest she comes across as hysterical.

This isn't aimed at you enichol it is just a general rant about it all. Hand on heart, if we send letters and someone doesn't pay, what does everyone suggest we then do? The system is covered by legislation set down by central government as I have said above. There are only so many chances you can give someone.

My job was to bill and collect in the council tax. The bill never stops, each year you get another one. If you can't afford to pay X amount outstanding on 2012/2013 bill how the hell is someone going to pay 2013/2014 bill plus an additional amount to cover the previous year's bill? <sad>

We genuinely made a massive effort to help out those who couldn't pay, and had no sympathy for those who simply wouldn't pay.

The deal with Council Tax is why should those who pay be made to pay extra for those who don't pay? Before I worked in Council Tax I worked in debt collection for an electricity company.

That was pretty simple, you didn't pay, we fitted a prepayment meter which forced someone to pay their debt. As local government, the council simply can't write off debts unlike an electricity company. And trust me, there are times when I really wanted to do that for some people who had been through hell but I couldn't.

With Council Tax it is pretty much guaranteed to go up every year, if we have debts outstanding from previous years then the Liability Order gives the council the power to take it directly from someone's salary. It is a fixed percentage and it is enough to make your eyes water.

I know that I had to do it to someone that I sort of knew, he owed only £400 and we got it in one bite of his salary. I got the figures below off a council website, under the attachment of earnings if they earn a net salary:

exceeding £2,020 we would take 17% in respect of the first £2,020 and 50% in respect of the remainder. That's right 50% of the remaining salary.

Link here for what they can take if you earn less.

Most people pay quite promptly in the future rather than have it forced on them. It is a hard lesson to learn.

Clearly enichol yours sounds like a debt you don't owe, maybe benefit stopped being awarded and the bill has gone awry, and sadly you get lumped in with everyone else.
Rant over grin I love being a SAHM smile

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