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'Obscene' changes coming to council tax payments

By West Briton  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

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FEARS have been raised that poor and vulnerable people will be under severe financial pressure after Cornwall Council's Cabinet agreed every household should pay council tax.

The new 25 per cent minimum charges will be introduced in April in response to the Government shifting the responsibility for council tax benefit onto local councils. The system currently allows low-income families and individuals to claim up to 100 per cent off their council tax bills.

However Cornwall Council's finance officers said continuing this could cost the council more than £4 million.

But some councillors warned of severe financial pressure and hardship for families and vulnerable people. Liberal Democrat Councillor Alex Folkes told the Cabinet last week: "There is a chance that poorer families could be forced out of their homes as a result of this. We could have an endless cycle of this council chasing people for money that they haven't got. This measure will impact significantly on the poor people of Cornwall.

"I would ask the Cabinet whether it is right that we force people into the arms of the foodbank?"

Secretary of State Eric Pickles said it was "obscene" and is considering using his powers to prevent the move.

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  • sfishy  |  December 23 2012, 2:41PM

    My local authority obtained a liability order though the Magistrates' court despite the appropriate amount of council tax being paid on a monthly basis. They instructed Ross-en-dales bailiffs to collect an outstanding sum of council tax which was entirely paid off by the time they began pursuing it. Hundreds of pounds were added by Ross-en-dales, this triggered off doing some research into what fees they could lawfully charge. As fraud was suspected the police were subsequently informed. The police's economic crime section concluded the attempted fraud was a civil matter to be taken up with the council. The authority lied its way through the formal complaints procedure, taking Ross-en-dales side, on the basis they are governed by some national code of practice. The Chief Executive ultimately agreed not to uphold allegations of fraud, making him complicit to the crime. It could be viewed that a term to receive his remuneration of around £200K a year is to lie and deceive residents. The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) was contacted with the naive assumption they'd investigate and put things right. They proved equally corrupt and after several months did nothing. After more research, a discovery is made that Ross-en-dales, like other private bailiff firms contracted to councils, are notorious for defrauding householders pursued by councils. With this, and other information obtained through the council's complaints, it is confirmed that several fraud attempts were made by Ross-en-dales. The new evidence was submitted to the police which they fobbed off with one excuse after another why they'd not investigate. Naively this was escalated to the IPCC, who proved as corrupt as the council, police and LGO. Another step involved the Magistrates court. Legislation provides under council tax regulations that a complaint may be put before the court for challenging an unlawful levy. The hearing was all set, but for a last minute discovery of a clause in the legislation which meant the complaint was time barred as a consequence of the months wasted with the police, council and LGO. Corruption didn't stop at the LGO, police and council; it extended to the county court where a bent Judge found that the bailiffs fitness was not in question after being presented with evidence of the fraudulent way he'd imposed charges. The next action should have nailed the bailiff, at least if the organisation responsible (ICO) for breaches of the Data Protection Act functioned as it should. Letters left by the bailiff, categorised as "of a sensitive nature" (threatening to remove goods) were left available for any member of the public passing. The ICO was contacted who determined Ross-en-dales not in breach of the Act after spending several months and wasting public money. A distinct pattern emerges – no public body is going to uphold a complaint made about another public body. Another clue as to why such cover-ups and corruption exists within these organisations is that Ross-en-dales, is effectively an appendage grafted onto the Ministry of Justice. Records were requested, after discovering very dubious practices in liability order applications. Another breach of the Data Protection Act followed when the court sent personal details of other council taxpayers, including account numbers. Again the ICO was alerted and again no formal action was taken. A consequence of the breach resulted in another's details mistakenly submitted with bank payments for council tax instalments. Despite all payments being made on time they were paid into another person's account and consequently Ross-en-dales were instructed again. The corrupt organisations were all given another chance to redeem themselves but all failed miserably to prove they were truly, independent and unbiased.

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  • lastshot  |  December 22 2012, 5:22PM

    Ooooops! ....It has been publicised in the national press and on TV, that R' oss.en,dale.s Ltd, who Cornwall Council contract its bailiff services to, is a criminal outfit. Have you been charged Unfair and Hiked-up Enforcement fees by Cornwall Council's bailiff contractors R' OSS.E'N,DALE.S Ltd, J'ac,obs, or Mar,st'on Group? ...............

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  • lastshot  |  December 22 2012, 4:56PM

    Private bailiff firms contracted to councils, are defrauding members of the public with no opposition from the Government, Local Authorities or the Police. Local news papers will not, for whatever reason, report on this serious issue. They are failing in their duty to raise awareness for the many thousands of victims involved. It seems these crimes will remain covered-up if left to the local press. It therefore must be tackled by members of the public who are prepared to expose our corrupt councils. It has been publicised in the national press and on TV, that R' oss.en,dale.s Ltd, who North Somerset Council contract its bailiff services to, is a criminal outfit. Have you been charged Unfair and Hiked-up Enforcement fees by North Somerset Council's bailiff contractors R' OSS.E'N,DALE.S Ltd? This would be in connection with either alleged or actual council tax arrears. Does the council state that they are lawful? Does the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) also state they are lawful? You can enquire by contacting the following email for a second, more seriously considered opinion: nelc.bailiffs@talktalk.net Alternatively or additionally you can register with the following advice website where free guidance can be sought which may potentially save you £hundreds in charges: http://tinyurl.com/7jppcez The following link features the equally crooked private bailiff firm,"Equ .i,ta", detailing a complainant's successful re-claim of nearly £400 of unlawful bailiff fees. Post #45 of this link. The council also offered money for the complainant not to pursue the complaint further. http://tinyurl.com/d49k74g

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  • windcube  |  December 22 2012, 1:07PM

    Have you got what it takes to become a Magistrate? Questions & Answers Q1. I've been told I can become a Magistrate without any qualifications or legal training, is this true? A. Absolutely! As a Magistrate you'll not be required to involve yourself in any aspect of the law. Q2. I'm worried that my lack of legal knowledge will cause me to make a wrong decision, how can I be reassured that I won't? A. You will not make wrong decisions. You will be given clear instructions of how you are to determine the case in advance of the hearing. Your job is to appear like you're considering the evidence. You will be effectively playing a role in a theatre production. Q3 I'm concerned that I may be required to deliver a guilty verdict when the defendant is so obviously innocent. How would I convince attendees in the courtroom that the process is fair and just. A. As a trainee Magistrate you would have plenty of opportunities to gain experience in this area. You would be assigned a mentor who would accompany you on many cases before you were allowed to go solo. Q4. I would love to become a Magistrate just to have the JP suffix after my name. But I consider having to sit on serious cases far too big a price to pay for this privilege. What is the most serious trial a Magistrate gets involved in? A. You will normally only get involved with minor offences which entail bulk processing like TV licences, Council Tax liability orders or in instances where motorists forget to submit details to the DVLA. Q5. I understand that in all Magistrate court cases the verdict has all ready been determined before the hearing. Why is the charade necessary (the court's involvement) when there is no decision to be made? A. You are quite correct. It is all a charade, but there are procedures laid down in law which need to be followed. As a Magistrate your function will normally be to attend for "conveyor style" prosecutions, where secondary legislation has been devised for the purpose of processing defendants in bulk – guaranteeing a healthy revenue source from the process.

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  • windcube  |  December 22 2012, 12:38PM

    Friday, December 21, 2012 Cornish Guardian http://tinyurl.com/buqsm2c Reversed into a bailiff's vehicle "A BODMIN man who reversed his Land Rover into a bailiff's van has been fined by magistrates after admitting driving without due care and attention. David Slowley had originally been charged with causing criminal damage to Matthew Fanshawe's Peugeot Partner vehicle – an offence he had denied – but changed his plea to guilty on the lesser motoring charge on Friday (December 14), the day his trial was due to take place. Tony Randall, for the prosecution, said that on September 17 Mr Fanshawe had gone to 52-year-old Slowley's home at Carpenter's Court regarding non-payment of council tax charges. Seeing Slowley's Land Rover parked on a driveway at the rear of the property, Mr Fanshawe parked across the driveway as the vehicle could have been seized in lieu of the unpaid charges. He then knocked on the front door but was told to go away. After Mr Fanshawe had returned to his van, Slowley came out of the property at the back and made it clear that Mr Fanshawe shouldn't seize the vehicle because he needed it in connection with his business. The bailiff said he would have to prove that. Slowley "jumped into the Land Rover, told Mr Fanshawe to move the van and then reversed back to within two or three inches of it", said Mr Randall. "Mr Fanshawe shouted 'whoa'." Slowley then stopped, pulled forward, and "angling at the vehicle at a fair speed, reversed straight back into the door and side panel, causing a dent". Photographs were shown to the magistrates of the damage caused. Mr Fanshawe said Slowley said to him: "You should have moved it, I thought you had moved it." Slowley later told police he hadn't intended to hurt Mr Fanshawe in any way or damage his van. He had been trying to reverse onto the grass and around the van. Barry Hilliard, for the defence, said that Slowley was a hardworking man with no previous convictions. He usually worked as a tree surgeon but did not have much work on at the moment so had taken on shifts at Tulip. He and his wife had faced financial difficulties and he was in dispute with Cornwall Council over his council tax – that matter was now with the ombudsman but at the time of the offence bailiffs had been instructed. Slowley accepted that Mr Fanshawe had simply been trying to do his job that day but he had driven across his driveway, blocking it, and had then tried to force entry to the house. Hearing a banging which gave the impression a clamp was being fitted to his Land Rover – a vehicle which is "the tools of his trade" – Slowley came out. He had planned to manoeuvre the Land Rover around the van but when he was reversing it jumped out of gear and rolled back into the van. He was fully insured and all damage was being dealt with through insurers. The magistrates fined him £60 with £85 costs and a £15 surcharge and imposed three penalty points on his licence."

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  • Green Ginger Studios  |  December 21 2012, 4:18PM

    Well whadayaknow! Rottendales and Non-******(ble) are auto-knobbled.

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  • Green Ginger Studios  |  December 21 2012, 4:16PM

    I have heard of auto censorship being applied to the names of enforcement firms so let's give this a whirl: *********** Jacobs Marston Group Marstons ****** Capita Speaking of ******, anyone know if CC have a contract with them?

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  • windcube  |  December 21 2012, 3:21PM

    Green Ginger Studios, I notice this article has been pulled from the "recently active" listings. Would you suppose this has been done to restrict numbers viewing the criticism of the authority? I've noticed this kind of thing before on NML news sites. I wonder if this one censors the word '***********' ? Let's see.

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  • Green Ginger Studios  |  December 21 2012, 2:26PM

    @ windcube Couldn't have put it better myself. That is exactly our problem, both of us being self employed. "Salary man" at County Hall just doesn't get it.

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  • windcube  |  December 21 2012, 12:20PM

    Just to add to the comments already made about the authority's reckless use of bailiffs, the important question to ask is – how much of the collected debt attributable to bailiff enforcement is actually money that would have been paid regardless of bailiffs being put on their cases? I'd estimate (in relation to alleged outstanding council tax) you could put down most of the money collected by bailiffs to that owed purely as a consequence of instalment facilities being cancelled. This element of alleged outstanding money owed would not technically be outstanding debt. Councils just create a temporary debt by demanding the entire liability at once by cancelling instalments. Householders struggling to hit instalment dates will have been pushed into paying the entire council tax in one go and consequently forced into paying additional fees for court costs and bailiffs when they obviously struggled in the first place. In these cases, the majority of the money would have been paid by the end of the financial year despite court action and bailiff enforcement. The only reason councils throw around summonses like confetti is because they probably make a couple of hundred thousand pounds a month in court cost.

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