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Apr 08 2014

Guest Post – West Harrow Willy on Councillors’ Overdue Council Tax

cllr_william_stoodley_2Guest Post from Clr Will Stoodley, on the ongoing saga of whether any Councillors are overdue on their Council Tax. The Council, incidentally, has refused to list by name which Councillors are overdue, and has ignored our request to confirm or deny if any Councillors are overdue (that’ll be another FOI request they’re not dealing with…)

Paul,

I believe I can clear up the mystery behind what you thought you found out on this, but would reiterate what one of your readers pointed out, namely that all Councillors voted therefore all Councillors were up to date with their Council Tax payments else they would have been barred from voting.

Now, to the mystery: I had a ‘phone call the morning before the last full Council meeting from a senior officer, whose blushes I shall spare so let’s call the person “X”. The conversation went something like this, and the asterisks are to protect addresses and identities:

X: “Good morning Cllr Stoodley.”
Me: “Good morning X, how are you?!”
X: “I’m very well thank you, how are you?!”
Me: “Top of the world thanks! How can I help you?”
X: “It’s about your Council Tax arrears. You made regular payments all last year until about November, when you stopped making payments. We had to summons you as we had no response from you to our letters, and the arrears including costs is now over £400 but more importantly it will bar you from voting tomorrow unless you clear the amount in full.”
Me: “I haven’t owned a property for over 2 years!”
X: “Yes but you live somewhere; even if you’re renting you still have to pay Council Tax.”
Me: “I’ve been staying with a friend since I sold my property at ** ********* two years ago!”
X: “Yes, but you’ve been paying Council Tax by direct debit!”
Me: “I assure you X, I haven’t paid a penny and am happy to print off my bank statements and bring them in to show you to prove this!”
X: [Now sounding very confused] “Okay, well then where do you live?!”
Me: ” ** ************* ****”
X: “And how long have you been living there?”
Me: “Two years”
X: “And who’s the owner?”
Me: “***** ***************”
X: [Now sounding puzzled] Okay, well, leave it with me and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
Me: [Now equally puzzled and with a bemused smile on my face] “Okay!”

[27 minutes later my cell phone rings again]
X: “Cllr Stoodley?”
Me: “Yes?!”
X: “Forget that last ‘phone call! Our mistake!”
Me: “No worries! Take care.”
X: “My sincere apologies for disturbing you! Bye.”
Me: “Bye.”

So there you have it – it was me! Except that it wasn’t! – If you see what I mean! Paul, I think you were just unlucky that you checked while they were busy cocking this up! Anyway there you go, mystery solved!

Cllr William Stoodley
Councillor for West Harrow Ward

Chair, Planning Committee
Shadow Portfolio Holder for Performance, Planning and Urban Regeneration
Group Secretary and Campaign Manager, Independent Labour Group

 

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  1. Linda Robinson

    This is a very funny story, Will, and I’m glad you’ve shared it with us so we can all have a good giggle. It’s preposterous, though, if this is the reason that Paul has been misled and ignored. But it’s not surprising – whoever was culpable must be soooo embarrassed; everyone must just keep putting it to the bottom of their list of things to think about.

    To say “mystery solved”, however, doesn’t really address the underlying problem. I’m sure many people can tell similar hilarious stories about the muddle in the department responsible for collecting council tax. Some years ago, they said I hadn’t paid up, started legal proceedings, had lawyers in court, and then had to back down on the day when they realised it was all a big mistake on their part.

    Here’s another story, from a couple of years back:

    A: “Good morning, this is Harrow Council calling as part of our new system to verify claims for Council Tax Benefit.”
    Me: “But I’m not claiming any Council Tax Benefit.”
    A: “You must be, otherwise you wouldn’t be on my list of people to call.”
    Me: “Well I don’t receive any benefits, so what do you want to know?”
    A: “Let me check….. Oh yes, you’re right, you’re not getting in any benefits. Sorry, I don’t know why you’re on my list…. “

    And here’s another from last month:

    Me: “Hello, please can you tell me if I really will be able to see my council tax bill on MyHarrow Account, and why it’s in twelve instalments?
    B “Oh, the reason you can’t see it online is because you haven’t been sent your PIN number to register. I’ll get one sent to you by our other department.”
    Me: “No, it’s not a PIN number I need. I use MyHarrow Account all the time and don’t have a problem accessing it, but the council tax bills are not viewable.”
    B: “Yes they are. You’re just not registered properly.”
    Me: “Yes I am. I’ve been using MyHarrow Account for years.”
    B: “That can’t be true, you couldn’t have been using it for years because we haven’t had it for years. It’s new.”
    Me: “I’ve been using it since 2011, but I don’t want to argue about that. Please can you explain why is my bill suddenly in twelve instalments instead of ten?”
    B: “It’s because you get Council Tax Benefit.”
    Me: “But I don’t get any Council Tax Benefit.”
    B: “You must have received Council Tax Benefit last year then.”
    Me: “No, I didn’t receive any Council Tax Benefit last year either.”
    B: “Let me check…. On no, you’re right, you didn’t get any Council Tax Benefit. I don’t know why your bill is in twelve instalments…”

    When Cllr. Hall kindly got on the case, they at first told her I was on Housing Benefit, which would be impossible. Then they told her I was on Council Tax benefit until last June, which is equally untrue. Two more bills later (neither of which have been viewable online) they’ve now irrationally divided my bill into eleven instalments instead of the ten I requested, and I’ve given up trying to get any sense out of them at all. I’ll just follow my own payment schedule, and save myself the frustration of dealing with them.

    It’s all very well scotching misplaced rumours and providing some comedy content for iharrow, but the fact remains that the systems in place to collect and account for our council tax are not fit for purpose. Most people who come up against these broken systems are probably not as resourceful as you or I, Willy, and may not always find the errors as funny as we do.

    Is anything going to be done about it, or is it just a matter of waiting for Capita to be thrown out on its ear. Anyone?

  2. Concerned Harrovian

    Can anyone tell me if Harrow residents are at risk of identity fraud because of the TNT fiasco? Presumably there are undelivered Council tax bills lurking in flat stairwells and goodness only knows where else providing useful details for fraudsters..

  3. Susan Hall

    Linda and Concerned Harrovian. We have indeed been badly let down by both Capita and TNT. I do promise however that I am doing my best to make sense of issues that arise. If you have personal issues then please do get in touch. Susanmaryhall@gmail.com. I am not as fast in responding as I would like to be. As I have over a thousand e mails per week and to add insult to injury have had no e mail at home for a month! I will however answer personally and I am trying to keep up as best I can.

  4. garth

    no answer to the fraudulent summonses then susan is that part of doing it tough unlawfully taking the poorest in the borough to a phony court and blighting their lives with worry and illegal bully debt collectors YEAH WELL DONE REALLY TOUGH EH

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