By Maxine Jasmin-Green.
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Last year I had a council tax letter stating that I owed them two thousand pound! I was shocked to say the least. I went straight up the civic centre to ask them what the letter meant. After I waited the ‘customary’ one hour it was my l turn to sit at the table, where everyone still waiting their hour or more turn is sitting six feet behind me, listening to every word the adviser it telling me. I said to the adviser, “There must be some mistake, for I have always paid my council tax by direct debit, how can I possibly owe you two thousand pounds?” She said, “The thousand pounds is for your bill for 2017 and the other thousand pound is for having a child in your home age eighteen!” I was gobsmacked! I asked again, “What do you mean, I don’t understand.” She went on, “Your son Daniel needs to pay one thousand pounds for living in your home from the age of eighteen, but as he lives in your home, you pay!” I said, “When I lived in my Mum’s house she wasn’t fined for me living there, so how can you fine me for having my child in my home?” She said, “It’s not a fine.” I told her, well if its not a fine, I’m not paying it!” I told her, “I have always paid my bill by direct debit, for well over twenty years.” I said to her, “You need to remove my direct debit, as I don’t have two thousand pounds,” She cancelled it, I left feeling confused and angry. I went straight to the bank to make sure it was cancelled there too.
I carried on paying my usual amount that I’d been paying each month to my council tax, the same amount but now inconvenienced I paid by cash. Then another letter came, it said, “If you don’t pay the two thousand pounds the bailiffs will come to your house....” I went back to the civic and sat there for the hour or more till it was turn, and I showed the advisor the letter he said, “You are now in arrears,” I said, “In my life, I’ve never been in arrears, I have always paid my bills on time!” I went on, “How can I be in arrears when I pay by direct debit?” He said, “The one thousand pounds is owed from 2016 when Daniel was eighteen,” I said, “How can he have a bill?” I added, “He owes you nothing!” He said, “He lives in your house, so you have to pay his bill,” I said, “I’ve paid the council tax bill.” Clearly I could see I was getting no where, and with nothing resolved I left, as we kept going backwards and forwards with the same words.
Then I had another letter, it was a summons to court! Flipping heck! So I went back to the civic, waited the customary hour or more on the chairs, hoping I wouldn’t get that extra loud advisor who was almost shouting with his booming voice for us all to hear the persons business. Sadly I got him! He said, “IF HE SIGNS ON AT THE JOB CENTRE TODAY, THE THOUSAND POUNDS WILL BE CANCELLED!” I said, “He doesn’t want to sign on at the job centre, why are you encouraging people to sign on?” He went on, “WELL IF HE DOESN’T SIGN ON TODAY, THEN IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PAY HIS BILL!” I said, “Its not my bill, get Daniel to pay it!” He replied, “WE CAN’T ASK DANIEL TO PAY IT, YOU HAVE TO PAY IT.” Again I left with nothing resolved.
I carried on paying my same amount, then another letter came it said, “We need your wage slips to see how much you earn,” We don’t get given wage slips, as it’s all on line, so on my day off I went to work and asked a Staff to help me download them and I took them that day to the civic. She said, “Oh your wage is quite low, you shouldn’t be paying this much, you need help.” I thought, “Great at last some help!” So before I left, she reduced the amount to eighty pounds a month. I left a bit happier. More happier than I had been in a long time.
But, the following month yet another letter arrived!!!!! It stated, “You owe two thousand pounds! So again I went to the civic, and waited in the customary seats for just over an hour till it was my turn and I had a softly spoken woman, she was nice, she said, “Is your Husband on benefits?” I said, “Yes,” And when I told her which one she said, “That thousand pounds they want you to pay for Daniel is now cancelled,” And after she did her calculations, she said, “For all the amount you have already paid this year, you new bill each month will be, thirty seven pounds a month.” I was gobsmacked, grateful, thankful, I filled up with tears and said, “Thank you very much.” Her reply was, “You should have told the advisors when you first came here that you Husband was on that benefit,” I said, I didn’t know,” She said, “You should have come in and told us,” Again I said, “I didn’t know I needed to,” She said finally, “Information like that is not on our system, they are trying to update it so everything about the Client is in one place on all the computers, everywhere,” She said, “All the best,” I said, “Thank you again,” And left on cloud nine. I then with the letter that showed the bar code, from the civic when it arrived, paid my thirty seven pounds, it felt great! I paid that twice, then two months later a letter arrived.
The letter said, “You are in arrears of one thousand pounds, and if you didn’t pay it, you will be summons to court.” Sigh. I told Daniel who said, “I’m not paying it, it’s not my bill!” And he was right really.
I went back to the civic and told the adviser about the thirty seven pounds and my Husband’s benefit, he said, “Daniel still has to pay for 2016 and if he’s not paying it, because we can’t ask him for the money, you have to pay it!” I replied, “Who sits in the office and make up these numbers?” I went on, “It’s like they just sit there and make up numbers,” They must say to themselves, “A thousand there, two thousand here, causing untold misery to peoples lives.” I told him what Jimmy said, who I work with, “As soon as I have paid my bill either before or after I’ve been to court, I get another bill from the previous years, its never ending.” His reply, “You need to pay your bill, so you don’t get a bill with added costs added on!” I said, “What about all those people who have years and years of unpaid rent, they don’t pay their bills?” He replied, “We are cracking down on them, if they don’t pay their bills they will be evicted!” Once again I left feeling depressed. Everything was perfect and then they ruined it all, I’d wasted SO many hours in that awful place. The letters carried on coming to my door, I didn’t tell Paul as it makes him VERY anxious.
Then last year just before Christmas a letter arrived, I’d began to ignore the others that still came to my door, but I decided to go one more time! The lady was OK not nice, not horrible she asked me, “What would you like to pay a month for Daniels bill?” With a heavy heart I said, “Fifty pounds a month,” I felt like a was loosing the fight, and the bullies were winning, for no one else had heard of this thousand pounds a child’s parent must pay to have their child in their home, no parent has heard of it nor any of Daniel’s or Megan’s friends, I didn’t want to be blacklisted or my credit score ruined, so that day in December 2017 the fight was lost! It was stressing me out, I hated the place! She said, “You will get a new letter with your bill and the fifty pounds for you son’s monthly payments.”
In January 2018 a letter arrived saying, “You owe five hundred and fifty pounds and Paul in his letter owes five hundred and fifty pounds!” I showed a very stressed out Paul the letters and said, “They have summons us to court in February, I’m not going!” The court date was my day off, why should I go? When I told Megan she said, “Mum you need to go and give your point of view.” I thought about it and said to her, “OK I will go.” But I’d forgotten to tell Paul so he had two nights without sleep! I told Jimmy at work who said, “I wished I’d gone the last time I was asked to go to court, I went to work instead, it’s good that you are going, Megan is right you can give your point of view.”
The court day arrived I’d prayed in the morning, that everything would be sorted and all in our favour, I got the letters in my hand and read from the Bible from 2 Kings chapter 19 verse 14 “After Hezekiah received the letter and read it he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord and prayed this prayer before the Lord.....” I prayed with confidence that my prayers would be answered and finally it would all be sorted. What I had hoped for would be that Daniels so called ‘bill’ would be dismissed or a very low payments would be enforced to the Council and that they wouldn’t keep moving the goal posts!
In the court my bag was checked, and I was scanned, I was asked to remove all that was in my coat pocket, bits of tissues pennies and five pence’s and my fob key for work, which caught the security guards eyes. It them took me ages to pick up all the pennies and five pence’s to put them back in my pocket. We went upstairs and a very jolly Asian woman said with a wide smile, “Are you here for council tax fines?” I nodded. She said, “Please can you sit there on the left.” We sat where we were told. I looked around, at the other group to my right all sat in a square shape with all the seats together making the same shape – a square. I looked down at my note that I’d written, so that I wouldn’t forget to say all that I wanted to say to the Judge. Included in my note was that I only buy reduced food, I’d paid all my bills, for the council tax and that to save money this year I was going to go Third Party for my old car, as my aim was to keep in the black. I’d told the kids and those at work that, “It didn’t pay to do good, for the drug dealers, Fat Cats and those who steal are not here today, because whatever the Council throws at them, be it one grand or two they can pay it with ease.” I always taught my kids the right way, and they are good citizens, the drug dealers and thieves was on my list, to tell the Judge.
A woman walked over to us and said, “Please follow me,” She was smartly dressed in a navy skirt suit with a plain white blouse, her blond hair was straight, one length at the sides and the back, with the straightest fringe I’ve ever seen! She had a longish face that matched her very straight hair, that was about seven inches long. She took us to the square section she sat down and I sat next to her with Paul on my right. She said, “You are here, for non payments of your council tax bill,” I told her, “We have paid our bill, we have always paid our bills direct debit, then suddenly out of the blue last year, this letter arrived saying we owed, two thousand pounds, and that one of the thousand was for us having our son living in our home age eighteen, I see it as a made up fine!” She said, “It has to be paid,” She wasn’t rude, or shouting she was calm in control, and professionally understanding. I asked her, “Would I be able to say to the Judge what is on my list?” She took it and read it, and said, “Do you want me to get an advisor to speak with you on another day?” I replied, “Will it change the amount of the bill for 2016?” She said, “No,” I replied angrily in a whisper, “Then what earthly use would be for me to waste more of my time talking, I’ve already wasted over ten hours of my life going to the civic last year, and even that advisor in December asking me what I could pay, and it was all a waste of my time, for I still ended up here in court like a criminal!!!!!” She said calmly and quietly, “You’re not a criminal.” I went on, showing her the letter, “What the council has cheekily done, was last year, put us as NOT paying our bill, and that the money we DID pay last year they put it down to us paying for 2016!” I said in a whisper, “I hate the court,” she nodded at me, “I hate the council,” she nodded again at me, “I hate the man that sent us the bill!” She nodded at the same time that Paul said, “It’s not his fault,” for at the same time I’d uttered the last statement I know that was wrong, and recanted my last statement and said, “I don’t hate the man who sent me the bill, it was wrong of me to say that.” She nodded again and said unfazed, “I will scan your note into the system.” She asked us, “What can you pay each month?” Defiantly I said, “It’s not our bill, I want to pay the smallest amount that I can!” The Paul spoke for the second time and said, “That would take us forever to pay it of, it’s best to pay it of as quickly as possible, and get it over and done with.” Then she went on her calculator, she told us what the amount would be so that it would be paid off in twelve months. I was fuming when she told us the amount and I said, through gritted teeth, “So we won’t need to go into the court room today?” She said, “No, all sorted, you will get a letter in the post.....” cutting her short, I said, “Well what am I sitting here for then!” And got up and left, Paul said to her, “Thank you, as he followed me, down the stairs and out the building.
I’d already planned to go to Town after court so outside we went our separate ways, Paul to the left and I to the right towards the Town. I felt very VERY sad. I wanted to cry but it was beyond that and I was outside. I had planned to go for an errand for my bother Eric but, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, I needed to unwind first, so I went to the only place that would do that, I went to my favourite shop in the whole wide World TKMaxx. Usually I try to only go there pay day, but today was an exception, I needed serious cheering up. I didn’t want to spend unnecessarily, but this was the only therapy, that would help me be me again. On the way about one minute after I’d left court, I almost ran into the road trying to beat the car that was approaching on my left, but stopped and the older woman standing next to me on the curb said, “It’s not worth rushing, wait,” I replied, “Yes it’s best to wait.” We both then crossed over safely to the other side of the road and she carried on talking, she said, “I’m on my way to the gym,” I looked at her again properly, she wasn’t as tall as myself, and I’m not very tall, she had dyed black thin shoulder length hair and she looked about eighty years old. I said, “Good for you, It’s good to keep fit, my son goes to the gym, he even goes Christmas Day,” She said, “My daughter goes to the gym Christmas Day too.” During the course of the conversation we learnt that both our children went to the same gym! I still felt rubbish, and said, “I’m turning right here now to go to TKMaxx,” she replied, “I’m going straight on, have a lovely day,” I said, “Thank you, you have a good day too.”
In TKMaxx I went to the reduced bags section, and immediately saw ‘my’ bag, I picked it up and saw that it was reduced to twenty one pounds, for last year when I’d seen it reduced to seventeen pounds and I um and ah and had left the shop without buying it, but as I’d walked thirty steps I’d seen a woman with the same bag! So I rushed straight back into the store only for it to be GONE!!!!! It was leather too and navy I was gutted, so today I wasn’t going to let it go and went and got a basket to put it in. As I walked around the store still feeling very sad, I had a phone call, it was my lovely Mummy calling me from abroad where she had retired to, she said, “You’ve been on my mind today, and I felt very strongly that I should say a special prayer for you, I have also fasted for you for today,” (my Mum knows nothing about the courts or that we were going, or the bill) she went on, “My Prayer for you today, it that you will have success, I wish you every Blessing, I’ve prayed long and hard for you today,” I bit my lip to stop my tears, grateful that she could not see into my eyes, I thought, “Well your Prayers weren’t answered Mum!” Mum asked, “Are you OK?” I lied and said in a fake cheered up voice, “We are all fine, all is well here, I love you Mummy,” Being reassured she, said, “Remember I have fasted and prayed for you for today, I love you, goodbye.” I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t feel any better, just confused and fed up! Hey, but I still had ‘my’ bag and thirteen pounds still left on my TKMaxx gift card that Megan had given me from Christmas.
I then went to Tesco to get some reduced food for our dinner, then my phone rang again, it was Paul he said, “I have some fantastic news,” (I couldn’t imagine anything that could be fantastic about today for my heart was heavy and sad) I replied, “I could do with some good news today,” He said, Daniel had texted me about something, and I’d texted him back and I’d told him about the court and the outcome, Daniel then texted back and said, “I will pay the whole bill for the year, just tell me when it is due and I will even try and pay it all of before the year is finished.” WOW! That was good news indeed! My Mum’s Prayers was answered ...... and mine too. I texted my Mum back and said, “We had been to court today, that Daniel is going to pay the whole bill, and that I was very sad when you rang me, that God had answered your Prayers, He’d placed me on your heart for this day.”
Yet I didn’t feel happy as in my view, it wasn’t our bill or Daniel’s. The Council
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I think you must have got cut
I think you must have got cut off by our word limit TKMaxx. If there's more, perhaps you could split this into two equal shorter parts. I hope you do because people prefer to read shorter pieces on a screen and this is really worth reading. It's very well written and illustrates quite a lot about some of the worst aspects of society today. You have been shockingly treated!
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What a shocking story! I was
What a shocking story! I was mentally shouting at these people for you. This is so unjust!
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Agree with insert re the word
Agree with insert re the word count and how you were treated. I dispair when people have to fight their way through bureaucracy. Let the CAB help you next time
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