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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 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

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 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.

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

Thanks CelticPromise. The schedule is for 2pm

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 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.

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 Mon 18-Mar-13 23:07:47

Many thanks to all, for the advice to my predicament.

Potterer -As you worked for a Council on this matter. Can I just ask again for clarity. We received a Bill stating that we are in reciept of Full CTB and the liability is nil. The next letter to us that I was aware of was the Summons. It was via email dialogue that I have found out that apparently a further updated Bill was issued - of course, not received. I have no idea why I have not seen anything until the summons. The Council tax department simply state that they cannot do anything now and will proceed to Court. They have, however, suggested that I get in touch with the Benefit department (in all honesty I thought that my correspondence would be addressed by whoever needed to - I thought the Council Tax department would be the people to 'speak' to.) I have emailed and tried to get to someone in the Benefits section of the Council today. No luck and will try again tomorrow.

Unless I get some satisfaction from them in the next few days, my planned course of action is to attend the hearing and show the zero liability Bill and state that I knew nothing further until the summons.

Do you think this course of action will be acceptable?

many thanks

Potterer Sun 17-Mar-13 18:51:07

Crikey this thread moved fast,

escape yes, if they make a payment arrangement with a bailiff then the debt is dealt with by them. So Rossendales does sound familiar to me. Although why they agreed to pay someone else's bill is very kind but also worries me, due to the reputation of these collection agencies.

CelticPromise in the court we used (teeny) the judges do not have time or inclination to hear someone's sob story of why they haven't paid. They are only interested in where we have made a mistake. To be truthful, if someone had contacted us then there would be no way we would proceed to court based on an incorrect bill.

As we ran court runs every couple of months, it wouldn't take long to fix an account to be correct and still manage to collect the monies in.

The whole council tax system is covered by legislation. They send a bill, if you default you get a reminder, it clearly states that should you fail to pay they will ask for the whole bill in one go. If you bring your arrears up to date then all is well. If you default again you get a second reminder and that will be the last reminder you will get.

So if after that first reminder you failed to pay or you default again after the second reminder you get a final notice. It says pay the bill in full or we will take you to court. At this stage there is no way I or any of my colleagues would make a payment arrangement. We want that Liability Order to give us the power to collect that money.

Re proving the bills have been sent, one thing going missing is one thing but 3 or 4 is unheard of unless you have problems with your other post. It is all computerised, the system shows the bills have been issued, and on our system would even tell you if it went straight out or came into the office to be scrutinised before being sent out. There isn't proof of postage nor is it sent recorded delivery.

Also if the emails don't answer your questions email them straight back and demand to know. I think you are dealing with a really shoddy council by the sounds of it. If you do ever deal with anyone on the phone, take a full name from them and a direct line if they will give it. Also ask for their manager's name too.

CelticPromise Fri 15-Mar-13 07:38:46

swallowed if I were you I'd send a recorded delivery letter explaining the whole sorry saga to a named person, and state you do not accept liability. Keep a copy. Then if they do try to take it further you can demonstrate you've done what you can.

There are hearings for council tax as well as the rubber stamping potterer talks about. Presumably there is correspondence beforehand where you can accept or contest liability.

swallowedAfly Fri 15-Mar-13 07:30:46

4.5 years lizs so not that seriously in this case. it is complete incompetency.

in the meantime i've been paying my council tax at my new home without any problems. just not willing to pay it on a place i didn't and couldn't live.

PearlyWhites Fri 15-Mar-13 07:27:17

Brenda you are very rude biscuit

LIZS Fri 15-Mar-13 07:27:01

but chances are your returned post isn't being dealt with by the same department . You need to sort this out once and for all, even if you think they haven't updated their records. CT is a priority payment so defaults get treated very seriously.

swallowedAfly Fri 15-Mar-13 07:24:07

this is 4 years on with gaps of 3 to 6 months between bothering to contact me lizs. i scribble because there's nothing new to say - so 'these figures are wrong, i moved out on date x, property was repossessed on date y, i was exempt by clause z, please see all of my previous correspondence' is about all that's worth saying.

not sure why it should be me chasing and making appointments over their errors. i don't have time.

oh i see you've muddled the OP's post and my post together thinking we're the same person. i'm not being taken to court at this stage though that's been threatened a couple of times then i write, they go quiet again for a few months then we go back to square one.

CelticPromise Fri 15-Mar-13 07:23:45

If you are summonsed you do have to attend unless there is anything on the summons about doing it by post or similar.

LIZS Fri 15-Mar-13 07:22:07

Sorry got confused between the 2 posters. blush

LIZS Fri 15-Mar-13 07:21:10

but it's gotten to the stage where i just scribble on the letter they've sent me with corrections, stick it back in the envelope and 'return to sender'

Sorry but that isn't a defence . You need to make an appointment to go and discuss it, ask for copies of all bills and correspondence . If it goes back 4 1/2 years your dh's current illness and your pg aren't relevant to the outstanding amount. If only you lived at the address , it is your bill.

swallowedAfly Fri 15-Mar-13 07:13:36

i'm in a position where i need to - it's on an old property that i owned and had to move out of for health reasons about 4.5 years ago now! it was repossessed some time after. i provided evidence at the time that i was exempt under having to vacate the property due to disability.

they forget me for a while then send another random made up bill - each time for a different amount, for different time periods, with different exemptions and reductions applied etc etc. i used to write long letters in response and provide more evidence but it's gotten to the stage where i just scribble on the letter they've sent me with corrections, stick it back in the envelope and 'return to sender'.

can you contest? if so how or once it goes to court is it really just a rubber stamp job?

(sorry for hijack OP)

NinaNannar Fri 15-Mar-13 07:07:03

No one contests liability. Ever. Ime

escape Fri 15-Mar-13 06:53:24

Potterer - so sorry to Hjack OP's thread. Your input is very timely. My Grandma is very recently widowed, I am sorting her admin/finances. Appar, She & Grandad agreed to pay a cousins debt to 'Rossendales' - Bailiffs/Debt Mgt. - Nanna says this was Council Tax arrears etc - Is this the way that CT is recovered?

swallowedAfly Fri 15-Mar-13 06:52:16

so you don't get a chance in court to contest your liability?

Potterer Fri 15-Mar-13 06:44:14

Firstly don't panic I used to work in council tax.

The court is a magistrates court not a county court so no ccj. It is merely to give the council power to collect any debt by other methods. They go to get a Liability Order.

You don't need to attend court, I think people have the idea that there is just a handful of people, but in reality we used to do 1500 people in one go. That's not per year, that's per court run.

We present the list, magistrate says yes, we go in a room get given use of a court rubber stamp & stamp all our own stuff.

Once they have the Liability Order it means they can ask for an income & expenditure to be filled out, personally I never used to think this was very accurate because it didn't ask enough questions.

They use that information to have employer details, meaning that should you fail to either make an arrangement to pay or not keep up the payments thru can take money directly from someone's salary.

Bailiffs are a very last resort & very far down the line. I am now a sahm but the going rate of repayment for someone on benefits was £2.60 a week.

The bill, reminders & final notices are covered by legislation so there isn't any way for a member of staff to over ride it.

Request a copy of the bill so you can see what time period it covers. I'll put this on my watch list to help in any way I can.

enichol Thu 14-Mar-13 12:48:47

Hi thanks all for replying

At the moment it seems that the best way forward is to claim it back when they have sorted it out properly, but we will have to borrow the money to do that. I dont see why any citizen should be forced to pay what they dont have. Some friends of my husband have worked as Process Servers and apparently they suggested that in their experience to pay any 'debt' first then try to claim it back is the wrong thing to do. Also the Council can take ages and all the while we are denied use of our money while they have use of it. Of course I have an issue with the charges though as whilst I dont feel we are actually liable for the 'debt' I certainly dont think we are liable for charges applied to what In my opinion is their mistake.

The Council is very well aware of our health issues but they appear to ignore this. (I do laugh with the lady who asks how we can have sex if my husband is ill! ) His illness is very official as he lost his Military career being forced out under medical discharge because of it and is constantly in and out of NHS clinics as the military have left the civvies to clear up the 'mess'. I appreciate that on this Forum I have been urged to call the Council to sort this matter out. I will make some calls today, but I should add that I have called the Council about other matters (and other companies such as utility companies and banks where there have been admin errors) and found that when the problems are still there, they always claim to 'have no record' of our phone conversation. So as its been my experience that they may need somesort of record shoved back at them which is why I email. Also rather than post a letter which can take days and has to incur the extra cost of recorded delivery to have some sort of record that it was sent, emailing is quicker. Why do the Council never send demands and summons recorded? Apparently at the hearing they have to prove they sent all the paperwork that they are obligated to do under the Council Tax rules - well we havent seen anything until the summons so how do they prove it?

A couple of times Ive pointed out this point the we now appear to be liable for 70% and that we cannot find any circumstance where anyone would get a 30% discount. However in the 2 emails that I have since received, they have not answered that point.

Its been suggested to me by a friend to use one of the services charities. I will encourage my husband to do this today. He has had to use a welfare officer from the Veterans Agency before, although he had to be forced to do that as he is still a proud man and frustrated by his situation. They were very helpful before and I hadnt considered it myself. I shall also look into the local Councillor. Ive tried the CAB a few times this morning but not been able to get past the engaged tone. They close at 1, so if no luck today will have to try again next week. I am struggling with the HG sickness though so its hard enough to type and look at this screen, its very hard to talk while constantly gagging. I hope there are ladies here that can sympathise with HG.

If there is any more advice, please add!


stormforce10 Thu 14-Mar-13 08:58:53

Have you tried contacting your local councillor? A good councillor should be able to get your case reviewed by a senior benefits officer to try to establish the true situation and get some kind of clarity. It sounds like a mistake has been made and the council need to go over the case properly.

You should be able to find and contact your councillor here

CelticPromise Thu 14-Mar-13 07:37:46

Also if one/both of you are not fit to attend ( although if it's you on the summons, it's only you that has to) get a sick note from GP saying not fit to attend court and send to court to try to adjourn. This would only delay though.

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