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What our papers won't print - Rossendales / North East Lincs Council

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I wrote a letter to the "view points" section in my local news paper in response to a letter dealing with the pettiness of North East Lincolnshire council in adding summons and liability order costs to residents council tax accounts.

 

I thought the letter would be in the public interest, however, it appears that the Grimsby Evening Telegraph are not going to print it for one reason or another.

 

So I will post it here and hope that at least some Grimsby and Cleethorpes residents will be able to read what our paper won't print.

 

In response to the letter dated 28 September 2010 (Petty Council)

 

Council action goes far beyond pettiness.

 

I'm responding to the article dealing with money which is made from residents of North East Lincolnshire. The summons and liability order fees associated with council tax, which are £32 and £25 respectfully, are added, often to the accounts of those least able to pay, which in effect, subsidise the wealthier residents. This system adopted by our council, I think goes far beyond pettiness.

 

Extra cash raked in with these additional payments are substantial, with CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) statistics showing in 2007 - 2008 almost £600,000 in penalties were issued by our council for domestic council tax alone. This equates to summonses being issued to just over 20% of its residents and around 15% received both liability order and summons fees, adding another £57 to their bills. The council have a duty to its residents in collecting any unpaid council tax, but these measures are frequently extended to residents with no arrears. This procedure is obviously set up (through its automated date triggered system) to catch out the maximum number of council tax payers, including those who just happen to be late with a payment or two. The Council, paying only £3 for each liability order, make 800% return by exploiting the magistrates courts in this money making [problem]. On a point of injustice, where an aggrieved resident requests the issue of a summons directed to the council, lets say for the illegal actions of its appointed bailiffs (whom they are entirely responsible) there is a fee of £200 payable to the court for making this application. It has recently been necessary for the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) to warn North East Lincs Council of their bailiffs' illegal levying of residents vehicles, were they knowingly choose a vehicle that is not the debtors for the purpose of adding a fraudulent levy fee. Though local authorities will tell you that their appointed bailiffs follow a strict code of conduct and are often referred to as "The council’s reputable bailiff company".

 

“The council’s reputable bailiff company” in the case of NELC is a company called Rossendales Ltd who are agents to around 150 councils and like numerous private bailiff firms they are handed liability orders from local authorities to recover outstanding council tax. Because private bailiffs make their money by adding fees to the outstanding debt and are not paid by the council, this encourages them to devise ways, often unlawful as in the levy [problem] mentioned previously, to maximise their fees. NEL residents who become involved with this or any other bailiff firm should be aware (there were over 5,600 in 2007 - 2008 ) that the amount they can charge is regulated, but despite this, unlawful fees are often added in the attempt to defraud the debtor, relying on their ignorance. However if their scams are discovered and challenged, they nearly always withdraw their fraudulent fees. Residents should also be aware that they have no legal obligation to deal with these bailiff firms, and is recommended that they don't communicate with them, and under no circumstances allow then into their home. Payments should always be made direct to the council, however, councils throughout the country are obstructive and will refuse payment once the debt has been passed to the bailiff firm. Persistence is needed here, as the council have to accept payment. The reason they insist they do not, is because the bailiff firm will be deprived of their fees.

 

Recently a former bailiff of Rossendales was convicted for fraud offences in Hounslow and Leeds and sentenced to a year in jail for [causing problems] £27,000 in debt collections, and then as a landlord stole accommodation deposits from students totalling more than £3,700 in which statements read to the court said they were left homeless.

 

Another former bailiff of Rossendales avoided jail in November, receiving a suspended sentence for fraudulently pocketing close to £20,000 over a five month period while collecting council tax and business rates debts owed to North Somerset District Council.

 

In Essex more unlawful behaviour from a former bailiff of Rossendales resulted in a two year jail sentence in February for stealing nearly £21,000 from a widow in her 80s suffering from senile dementia, who also became involved in the proposed sale of her £400,000 home. These are examples of more serious cases that get press coverage, but for each of these there are thousands of other unlawful practices routinely carried out which secure bailiff firms maximum income while defrauding the debtor knowing the legal system will turn a blind eye.

 

These extreme measures are brought about by local authority’s obsessions with council tax collection rates. It maybe that they achieve a 0.1% increase by way of their reckless behaviour. But how much does this increased performance really cost in complaints and disputes etc?

 

Name and address supplied.

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I found that any letters / comments longer than, say your first two paragraphs hardley ever get printed / published. We live in a world of 'jucy soundbites'.

 

Try shortening it and starting with more sensational (but true) words like "criminality and profiteering by council tax collectors" siting the examples / evidence latter in the letter.

 

Good on you for making the effort.

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T.G.P,

 

It does go on a bit doesn't it, but what you say is good advice. Profiteering! criminality!, I like these words, are there any others you suggest to throw into the mix?

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Assuming you are e-mailing, I can suggest that you include links to any sources directly backing up words like 'criminality' preferably from a reputable national source. Small newspapers are usually financialy unable to combat libel claims, which are easy to initiate and hard to defend. Consequently they throw out material which poses any risk, and often lack the resources to check it out themselves.

 

Good luck with it.

 

Edit - Might help to include the words like "in keeping with a barrage of criticism across the media spectrum" then send them links to stories in reputable and heavy weight publishers like the BBC, Guardian and the Local Authority 'rag' tomtubby posted (i think its a sticky). Most of these articles are posted on this forum somewhere. You need to let them know they are not sticking their necks out.

On the other hand, if the editor plays golf with the councils chief exec, you're stuffed!!!!

Edited by Thegreenpimpernel
extra info

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maybe they didnt print it because it was boring

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Voxter is right. In journalists parlance, its a TLDR - Too Long Didnt Read.


Professional property investor and conveyancer

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Edit:

 

Maybe I made a hasty decision about the article NOT going to print.

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well, it was kind of long...but nevertheless I thought it was interesting. Sometimes newspapers do print long letters.

 

I am currently in dispute with my local council because they were a little premature and took "court action" against me before they should have and therefore did not follow their own procedure.

 

this matter seems to have opened up a can of worms. I attended the "court hearing" when i received the "court summons". A "liability order" was then issued against me.

 

It seems to appear that the "court summons" was not issued by the court but the council themselves. I have requested a copy of their application to the court for an actual court hearing with the court's seal (stamp) acknowleding receipt.

 

I have requested a copy of the court summons letter as produced by the magistrates court (stamped with the court's seal) and not the council tax department's version of the court summons.

 

I have requested a copy of the liability order granted by the magistrate, containing the magistrates signature and the court's seal.

 

I have not even received an acknowledging response from the council to say that they are collecting the information to bob it in the post for me or anything.

 

I truly believe that councils have been [causing problems] people for years. They collect money and then are extremely wasteful.

 

I have a friend who works in the council and he told me that they provide special "kind to your back" chairs that cost £8000 a pop for council employees, they provide the money for their employees to receive hypnotherapy to help them quit smoking (£50 per session, one session per week), they provide money for training in fields unrelated to the job (he had his sign language lessons paid for during work hours - his job involved telephone customer service work!!!)

 

I am sick of these organisations squeezing the little man dry!!! Everybody needs to start making a stand. I'm trying to do my bit.

 

hb

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Top this one...

 

My council employed a "Walking Consultant", and yes, they consult on 'walking'.

 

I have offered my services as a 'breathing consultant', but i haven't heard back yet, despite having nearly 40 years experience and an impeccable CV of continuous breathing during that time.

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I have offered my services as a 'breathing consultant', but i haven't heard back yet, despite having nearly 40 years experience and an impeccable CV of continuous breathing during that time.

 

Ha Ha...well, I wouldnt employee you as a "breathing consultant" because although initially it does look quite impressive that you have managed to breathe continuously for almost 40 years, sometimes there are times when breathing isnt such a good idea (underwater, smokey conditions, etc). So, perhaps you need to make it clearer that you could also teach people how to temporarily suspend breathing if the need arose. lollllllllllllll

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Ahhhh, that explains how the 'paramedic incident' must have come about. I woke up soaking wet with someone sat on top of me doing chest compressions.

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Ahhhh, that explains how the 'paramedic incident' must have come about. I woke up soaking wet with someone sat on top of me doing chest compressions.

 

Some pay good money for that type of thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

PT


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I know quite a bit about this council ( NELC ) and the papers can not print stuff about them ( the local ) becasue the councilors threaten to withdraw advertising.

 

On to Rossendales and council tax.

 

Here are the figures from a reputable source.

It will not let me post links, see me on whatdotheyknow

and heres is my take on them.

my crazy council website

 

:jaw:The con is two places in these figures.

 

1. The court collection fund

2. The mmount on false Liability orders ( 4k py )

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Crazy Council,

 

So the councillors threaten to withdraw advertising from our local paper. That doesn't surprise me, these being the typical actions of our slimy local authorities.

 

You probably can't post links because you haven't posted the minimum required to qualify to do this.

 

Anyway I've seen your posts on whatdotheyknow, and though they have avoided answering certain FOI requests there is some interesting information there. I take it that the following is what you are referring to:

 

Questions for council tax and business rates and bailiffs

 

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/questions_for_council_tax_and_bu

 

Your article about council tax external links removed also makes interesting reading external links removed

Edited by IdaInFife
external links removed

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I have been researching this for years. Its to do with a figure the council had to present to the audit commission 4 times a year called bvpi figures ( 10 , 11 ) CT and NNDR collection rates. NELC was poor (

 

so they realised that if they put people on Liability orders they dont have to count them the same. hence the improvment in the figures for BCVI ( 98+)%.

 

Ie, if our council report bad figures, the managemnt get changed, so , the great managment at our council just changed the way the system counts, and the public bear the costs ( Millions ) , have you seen the figures each year fo the court collection fund ( £800,000 +) each year.

 

They pay wages out of that fund. ? ie, they need to take approximently 6000 to court each year just to ballance the books.

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I have been researching this for years. Its to do with a figure the council had to present to the audit commission 4 times a year called bvpi figures ( 10 , 11 ) CT and NNDR collection rates. NELC was poor (

 

so they realised that if they put people on Liability orders they dont have to count them the same. hence the improvment in the figures for BCVI ( 98+)%.

 

Ie, if our council report bad figures, the managemnt get changed, so , the great managment at our council just changed the way the system counts, and the public bear the costs ( Millions ) , have you seen the figures each year fo the court collection fund ( £800,000 +) each year.

 

They pay wages out of that fund. ? ie, they need to take approximently 6000 to court each year just to ballance the books.

 

Am I correct in thinking that the number of council tax payers, i.e. 6,000 approximately each year are taken out of the equation for calculating the collection rate performance?

 

No wonder the councils can achieve near 100% collection if they can resort to these fiddles. I'm aware local authorities actively encourage people to claim C/T benefit to improve collection rates by taking them out of the equation, but resorting to taking residents to court is just criminal.

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More or less but its a bit more confusing than that, they use the liability order system to move approx 3000 out of 8000 of the books till the next finacial year. The BVPI figure is accounted for yearly, without corrections for mistakes.

 

This may be understandable in a financial system for one year but it happeneing the same over 4 years shows that they are farming the accounts. The extra charges that the 8000 pay are substatial. and remember these 8000 are the poorest WORKING people, people realy trying hard to stay employed, and on the lowest income.

 

I have now formaly accused them of false accounting in relation to these figures and i am about to the liability order side of things.

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Crazy Council,

I wish you luck with your dealings with North East Lincolnshire Council, you'll need it if you are met with the same arrogant obstructiveness I'm encountering with them. Here are some responses brought about by a complaint regarding the council's obnoxious threatening letters (including unresolved Rossendale issues), once again demonstrating the futility of entering into the complaints procedure of any government run organisation. Their comments in blue text:

 

I have received your reply to my stage one formal complaint, originally dated 4th October 2010. However, I notice from your 'item 2' (paragraph from my complaint letter omitting certain text), that it doesn't make complete sense.

 

Has this been done to avoid answering the question which was omitted from the paragraph?

 

i.e.

Am I right in assuming that the date’s inaccuracy has something to do with automatically generated letters which are produced en mass and only on selected dates? And that the reason I have received this letter is down to computer technology, which is automatically triggered by certain parameters written into the computer program and with no human input except for the initial creation of the content of the letter?

 

This was not done to avoid answering your question. I answered this in the most effective way by considering your circumstances. I explained that there was no inaccuracy as you were in arrears. The way the system is set up or parameters are set is in line with legislation and council policy and you were given more than enough time to ensure the required payment had been made.

 

You are obviously well aware of the computer process for reminders therefore I do not feel the need to go through this process with you. The fact remains that you received this letter because you were in arrears with your council tax.

 

 

As "debt recovery Manager" I'm surprised that you are not aware, or appear not to be aware of the The council tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (No. 613) and in particular regulation 45 (distress) Enforcement, PART VI. I can only assume you are not familiar with this legislation owing to your response in "item 3".

 

"Working in line with council policy" as you stated council staff were doing, implies the council are a law unto themselves, with the council tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations being of no consequence. Therefore I'm dissatisfied with this response and would appreciate you addressing this issue more thoroughly.

 

I am aware of the regulations above which state that ‘’ If before any goods are seized, the appropriate amount (including charges arising at the time of the payment or tender) is paid or tendered to the authority, the authority shall accept the amount, and the levy shall not be proceeded with.’’

 

At no time did you offer full payment including fees and charges as stated above to the authority, had you offered to make full immediate payment using cleared funds and including Rossendales’ fees and charges then it would have been accepted.

 

I would also like to bring it to your attention about the councils' court enforcement manager, Mr. Neil Smith. Particularly important as he is in a position to influence important decisions, in court for example. A person with this influence should not be a known liar. So I'll remind you of the reply I received to a formal complaint regarding Rossendales ability to gain information from DVLA:

 

“A DVLA check cannot be accomplished online and must be sent via filling in a V888 Form and sending it by post to DVLA Swansea, this can take up to 10 days for the information to be received. Due to the fact that the levy had taken place and that the vehicle in question could have been removed in that 10 day window it is unreasonable that a DVLA check is completed at this time and the onus of proof changes to the third party of the vehicle.”

 

Now you are aware more specifically about how Mr. Smith lied to me in writing, I would appreciate you addressing this issue more thoroughly.

 

Mr Smith did not lie to you; the information given at the time was information that was obtained from the DVLA. I have checked with the DVLA again today who stated that the form above would have to be sent with the required fee. We can only provide the information given to us and have made every effort to address your complaint.

 

I have also spoken to Rossendales and have been advised that they only have access to ACA (Approved Conditional Access) for Road traffic offences.

 

The statement regarding the onus of proof is correct.

 

I also noticed issues that were not addressed and questions unanswered which I would like to be included in my reply, so I have as complete a first stage reply as possible, before proceeding to the stage two complaint.

 

1. From my complaint:

 

I will remind you of the fiasco brought about by your immoral debt recovery strategies and use of Rossendales bailiffs. (I trust Rossendales no longer act as bailiffs for you after I exposed their attempt to defraud me on several occasions?)

 

Are Rossendales, still bailiffs for North East Lincolnshire? And If so, why, when you're aware that they operate criminally?

 

Rossendales do still act as bailiffs for the council; I have seen no evidence of criminal activity. Some issues that arose in your case were unacceptable and parts of your complaint were upheld, however once the issues were raised the matter was dealt with efficiently and effectively by both staff at the council and at Rossendales. You are aware that the bailiff concerned no longer works for Rossendales as a result of this.

 

 

2. From my complaint:

 

Failure of Rossendales and the Council transferring on daily basis information relating to my council tax account, resulting in Rossendales overcharging from the outset. And their records not registering payments made up to six weeks previous.

 

I apologise for the delay in this process, when customers continue to pay to the council via the internet or other non direct methods of payment, after they have been advised not to do so, there is the risk that we will not be aware of these individual payments. Once this issue was raised it was dealt with, you had no costs to pay to Rossendales, and therefore this matter has been addressed.

 

 

Although this relates to my first complaint about your use of Rossendales, it has never been addressed. This is particularly important as I've read in a reply to a FOI request that extra revenue you receive, generated in the recovery process is used for "technological systems" amongst other things, as per the following:

 

‘The monies collected are offset against the recovery of Council Tax. This includes the technological systems in place, employment of staff and procedures and legislation followed to attain a high return of Council Tax payments’.

 

The above relates to Summons and Liability Order costs and is correct. The council receives no revenue from Rossendales costs.

 

 

3. From my complaint:

 

Leaving a document of a sensitive nature that being a removal notice wedged outside of the security door at my residence, breaching the Data Protection Act and contravening The National Standards for Enforcement Agents requirements, as it could clearly have been intercepted by someone passing.

 

Although this relates to my first complaint about your use of Rossendales, the breaches of data protection were never addressed.

 

With regard to a breach of Data Protection you are asking about something that ‘could’ have happened but did not. Both the council and Rossendales Ltd. have dealt with this matter, as stated before the bailiff concerned no longer works for Rossendales.

 

 

4. From my complaint:

 

I’m aware that the council take advantage of the debtor’s misfortune and exploit the magistrate’s courts by making money out of it by charging further costs of £32.00 and £25.00, before handing over the reigns to the private bailiff who then systematically defrauds the residents in an attempt to maximise their fees. It’s so obvious that the less well off, or people who have fallen on hard times are providing for an immoral living of the parasitical bailiffs and subsidising the wealthier by paying additional council tax, which no doubt many turn to loan sharks (you really are a sick immoral organisation). I don’t believe for a minute that the council is ignorant of this practice, in fact I’m sure it encourages it.

 

Why are the courts exploited for the purpose of obtaining £57 from residents who have the least ability to pay, when the cost to the council is only £3 each resident?

 

As stated before:

 

‘The monies collected are offset against the recovery of Council Tax. This includes the technological systems in place, employment of staff and procedures and legislation followed to attain a high return of Council Tax payments’.

 

Any costs have to be agreed by the Magistrates Court therefore this is not exploitation.

 

 

Can you justify why the more wealthy residents' council tax is subsidised by the less fortunate who incur extra charges?

 

I disagree with the statement above, in fact each council tax payer subsidises bad debt which is factored in to the council tax bill.

 

 

Can you justify why you provide an opportunity for the obviously immoral private bailiff firms to fleece the most vulnerable in society by defrauding them with the full knowledge that the law will turn a blind eye?

 

I disagree with this statement. I have seen no evidence of the above in relation to the council working with Rossendales Ltd. We have a robust policy with regard to the use of bailiffs as you have been advised in your previous complaint.

 

 

Can you tell me truthfully your views about the illegal practice of your appointed bailiff firm?

 

I have seen no evidence of illegal practice, there were errors in your case and this has been dealt with as stated before.

 

As all these issues are important and should not be brushed under the carpet, I would appreciate all the above to be addressed seriously and not just treated as an exercise in fobbing off the complainant.

 

Responsibility for your previous account being passed to Rossendales Ltd. lies with you. You were given ample opportunity to contact the council prior to the account being passed to Rossendales and you chose not to do so.

 

I am absolutely not brushing these issues under the carpet or trying to fob you off, I have addressed more than I needed to in the complaint regarding your reminder and once again have tried to work with you on the issues above. However, I will not be drawn into your previous complaint further or comment on unproven statements or opinion.

 

The councils Chief executive Tony Hunter has requested I keep him updated therefore a copy of this response will be sent to him.

 

You have stated it may be your intention to progress this complaint to stage 2 therefore I have furnished you with the details of this process below:

You can ask that your complaint be progressed to stage 2 of the council’s corporate complaints procedure by contacting the Business Support Unit, Civic offices, Knoll Street, Cleethorpes. DN35 8LN.

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Hi outlaw, what were the specific dates involved. What year, are you band a or band b, has this happened on previous years.

 

Can you justify why you provide an opportunity for the obviously immoral private bailiff firms to fleece the most vulnerable in society by defrauding them with the full knowledge that the law will turn a blind eye?

 

I disagree with this statement. I have seen no evidence of the above in relation to the council working with Rossendales Ltd. We have a robust policy with regard to the use of bailiffs as you have been advised in your previous complaint.

 

some statments for you.

 

Firstly there is now an offical complaint in with cipfa about how our council operated this system between 2004-2009.

 

Secondly, these liability orders do specificaly target the poor, band a and band b propertys, working parents and people out of work and just starting to claim benefits.

 

The reason they do it is not to collect more money, because it just pushes more people onto benefits to protect themselves from the baillifs, its to fudge the bvpi indicatiors for collection rates.

 

Progress you comaplintto stage 2, stage one is a formality at our council and would have been looked at and decided by the manager that chose to put your case to the baillifs.

 

and you can just email them to ask them to progress it to stage 2.

 

The council may not recive money directly from rossendale but they do recivive a benefit. That is that rossendalse agree not to charge them for misstakes that the council pass them ( people on benefits or charged incorrectly ).

 

.

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Hi outlaw, what were the specific dates involved. What year, are you band a or band b, has this happened on previous years.

 

Hi CC

 

Band b and first encounter with the bailiff. Occurred late 2008 and well into 2009.

 

Can't really post this information at the moment, but have PM'ed you some details.

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I am not sure there the journalist is getting his facts from:

 

At each court summons the tax dodger has to pay £32 and, after appearing in court, they have to pay a further £25 as a liability order

 

Currently there is no regulation or procedure enabling an authority or a magistrate to make a costs order against a taxpayer receiving a liability order.


Professional property investor and conveyancer

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they banned me from commenting on that site becasue of my own website.

 

but they can charge court and summons fees ( LGFA 1992 ). Its just not reletive to the costs ( £ 3 per case ) this is something i have been researching for years

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Not just local Councils, there's a special Ministry.. started in the 60s..

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