Council TaxIt took me months and months to arrange the payment of Council Tax at the flat I’ve lived in since 8th September 2006 in Southwark. I’ve blogged about the problems before. But by February I thought I had managed to fix everything – make my 2006 payment in one go, and then setup a Direct Debit.

Oh no. How wrong could I be. I have today arrived home to a terse ‘Reminder Notice’ (pictured) from Southwark telling me that my Council Tax is in arrears. How can it be in arrears? They have not even sent me a bill! Presumably there could be some valid reason for a wrong payment, but of course there’s not a word of explanation. They also helpfully add the line on the notice: ‘If payment is not made within seven days you will lose your right to pay by instalments’.

So if financial reasons (rather than their sheer incompetence) were the issue, they would aim to punish me twice. Great. Maybe time our Lib Dem-Tory administration did something about this? Fat chance.

[UPDATE – 4.5.07]
I called the Southwark Council Tax call centre, and they helpfully informed me that no direct debit had yet been setup, and that all that would have happened previously would have been solved if I had filled in a form – not sure that ever arrived. I asked if I could set up the Direct Debit on the phone and I was told no, you have to clear your payments first – on the premium rate automatic payment line of course – and then call back a week later to establish the Direct Debit, if the one-off payment has worked out. What a mess! Are they setting out to make it hard and complicated to pay?

8 Comments

  1. Joel Carter

    They are beyond rubbish and accept no responsibility when their systems fail. Got another fine when I tried to set up a direct debit months ago.

  2. I have also had numerous problems with Southwark Council tax department. I got a bizarre re-charge for of the month of July when some I live with moved out and which I had already paid for and I got a court summons for a bill that had already been paid.

    I live with 2 students and Southwark keep getting the bill wrong. I got sent a council tax bill with the name of one of the people I live with missing, and no student discount. The student forms were sent in for the discount but nothing was done, so I’m going to have to send them in again. I’ve never had an email responded to and I now have no trust in South Council Tax department what so ever.

  3. Thomas Chapman

    Next time I’ll spell check ;o)

  4. Thomas Chapman

    I’m still dealing with Southark Coucil’s pathetic Coucil Tax department.
    Every year i spend in excess of 8 hours call round the coucil senior staff in order for them intercede among their farcical processes and people adn resolve “Reminder Notices” for payments that should have been paid in Direct debits that have been set up while you’re on the phone, but then vanish into the ether once you hang up on the call. It’s a racket to earn more money. My first year in Southwark I paid around an extra 150 pounds for late payment charges….NOT because I was culpable but because the hassle to resolve it and the threat of further irreconcilable charges would be added. Simply put, the depoartment is a legalised mob of gansters supported by a yet a further mob of imbeciles. I am told by my local councillor that the head chief is Duncan Whitfield, Director of Resource & Finances.

  5. The point about all this is that it seems to be a con. There is more profit in not recording payments and then going to the magistrates’ court and obtaining an order than there is in keeping proper records. That way, they get your original payment plus any amount the court decdies is due. Not only that, but if you actually go to the court you will find not a court at all but a bunch of clerks sitting round a table asking people how they are going to pay their debt – even though there may well not be a debt, and without any means of exploring whether money is due or not. As there are 100-200 people all summoned on the same day, most people never get heard at all because they have to go back to work, feed the children, or some other reason. And no doubt they resort to paying a debt that is not due in many cases just to avoid further hassle.

    As to giving them a direct debit mandate, that puts them in a position to help themselves from your bank account whenever they feel like it – whether there is money due or not. Given their past performance, it seems to me that if they do this they will also tell you that ‘according to our records no payment was received’ and try to charge you again at a later date through the courts.

  6. I have been informed that I and my student son have a liability order against us. We were informed by Southwark Council that our case had been adjourned because we had gone to the Valuation Tribunal. My son is a student and has forwarded the requisite documents. We have just now received a new bill included one which Southwark admitted was incorrect and is over £500 more. We had already sorted that one out.

  7. I completely agree with you, I have experienced similar problems and find it insulting, disrespectful, and just downright incompetent that they can’t sort their stuff out, yet WE are the ones who get the crap for it. Every possible stage of the process is made impossibly difficult.

    Ive written letters – ignored. Left messages as they never answer their phone – took them 2 weeks to call me back regarding 5 separate messages – great when they give you 7 days to pay in the terse letter. I too have had arrears notices with no bill.

    i wrote a complaint over a month ago. Nothing. Just complained to the government local authority ombudsman.

  8. One thing you might try. I eventually resorted to this after receiving my fourth court summons for non-payment of council tax is to completely bypass the normal routes. Find the e-mail address of either the Executive Director of the department, or failing that the Chief Executive of the council.
    When things start hitting their inboxes they tend to take notice. I wasted four months dealing with the underlings before going straight to the top, got sorted within a week then. Also handy to cc the e-mail to a fairly prominent Labour Councillor as well. Good luck.

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