Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Islington Council: not fit for purpose and an absolute disgrace

Oh dear...it must be time for a rant.  Feel free to leave this page, and never return.

A few years ago when I lived in central London I rented a car parking space.  For this privilege I paid not just  the rent, but also Council Tax technically it was 'Non Domestic Rates'.  Now given that the space  was roughly 6' x 10' you probably think the Council Tax was not a lot.  In fact for that tiny area I paid more than most people would pay for a four bedroom detached house in the leafy suburbs.  Eventually we moved and I gave up the space.  I wrote to the council and they ignored me for many months, other than sending me increasingly aggressive Demands.  I kept writing and they kept sending demands.  Eventually I went up to their offices and explained in person together with the correspondence.  A few weeks later I got a court summons.  I arrived at Court and the council offered to postpone the proceedings, but I declined.  In court the Council explained that they needed to place an orange stripy traffic cone in the space so it wasn't used and over the course of the previous 12 months had not had the time to do that.  They acknowledged all my correspondence.  It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the judge laughed them out of court.

 A few fewer years ago Islington Council decided to pursue me for the Council Tax for The Boy's dead mum's house.  I had never been responsible for it and the Trust responsible for looking after the house paid the due Council Tax.  Extraordinarily, for no reason, the Council refunded the Tax to the Trust and issued me with a court summons.  You can imagine the rest.

You may understand then, that any time Islington Council is mentioned I get a twitch.

Some weeks ago I has a telephone call from someone claiming to be from Islington Council asking for my address.  I pointed out that if they had my name and my telephone number they should be able to find my address.  I asked for proper identification before I divulged any information.  They declined and the telephone call ended.

This morning I received a Council Tax demand for some £1200.  For the car parking space.  For 2005/6. I rang them on the number on the bill 020 7527 2633.  The person at the other end couldn't identify the account number on the Demand and put me through to someone else.  I asked "What makes you think I am liable for this?"  "Because it's on the system" was the reply...I tried to go further but beyond  "Because it's on the system" I got no further.  At that stage it was clear someone else needed to speak with me, but before I let them call me back I went through the two scenarios above and suggested that Islington Council was harassing me.  I asked the man, Jamial Kahn to write this down before he spoke to his supervisor.  But he refused.  He also refused to give me their telephone number so I could call back if I heard nothing.  He refused.  He did say someone would call me back within the hour.  End of call.

In the meantime I spent a frantic 45 minutes going through all the files on my computer to find the previous correspondence.  One name came up.  Ian Barrett.  And indeed when the phone rang the man introduced himself as Ian Barrett.  I explained why his name was familiar to me, and he proceeded to tell me that the reason I had received a Demand was because the owner of the spaces had reduced the number from 16 to 11, the council had therefore closed the property references for the 16, creating new references for the 11.  Obviously as new accounts no money was credited to them so it appeared I owed the money...although he said in fact I didn't because "someone's working from home and as they reconcile the payments to the old property references, the debt was being cleared before my very eyes".

He didn't see any problem in them devoting time and costs to tracking me down and then issuing a demand.  I, in no uncertain words, explained exactly why it was wrong and a waste of council tax payers' money and how they were incompetent, unhelpful and unreasonable.

I hope you agree.