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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71031
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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COUNCIL TAX In September we noticed that our local authority

Customer Question


In September we noticed that our local authority Haringey had opened a 2nd Direct Debit on our account for our council tax (this is the second time this has happened in 5years!!)
without our knowledge. We cancelled one but in doing so it appears that cancellation also resulted in the active one being cancelled. We first noticed this when we got a letter that we owed our council tax. We immediately sent an email explaining the problem and stated that we cancelled as we felt the action of opening a 2nd DD without our consent is an opening for fraud. We also stated that the outstanding tax and uptodate tax will be paid.

We paid both in time but despite having an automated acknowledgement of our email, we had no further correspondence from Haringey Council until we got a letter from the Courts that a Liability Order had been granted against us!! No notification, no warning no nothing. Just a legal cost for £200 plus amount of tax owed. We owed nothing.

We sent a further email to this effect and indeed made an application on line to have our council tax paid over a 12month rather than 10months as the law had changed allowing us to do this. On the latter we had a response both by email and in writing. On the former, again no response.
We took the decision to pay over the Post Office counter as we felt there was something amiss with the way the tax dept had opened the 2nd DD and the suspicion there is a connection between the tax dept and someone in the legal dept as there really was no need for the DD to be activated and the only people to benefit from not informing us would have to be the legal dept. We also stated we will not be paying the legal cost as we were never informed of any court proceedings (naturally we would have contested it)

We then had a phone call on 24April from some one from the tax dept informing us that we owe 84£ and if we do not pay the council will consider the bailiffs! She was informed in no uncertain terms that we do not owe any monies as we have indeed paid our tax for March of £115 She duly informed us that that was put towards our legal fee and we are now behind by £84.
Once again we sent an email referring them to the trail of emails and once again we received an automated response of the email's receipt but no correspondence until today
Unsurprisingly, the letter goes on to say that the order was made with an additional cost of £125 yet in January when we first received the Order we were told cost of £200

I am spitting blood at the moment and need some advice as I am about to make a formal complaint to the Tax Dept but I feel someone ought to be looking into how the Council conducts itself with regards XXXXX XXXXX 'non-payment of council tax' and the ensuing harrassment both in letters, telephone calls and adding legal cost with no noticeable breakdown; just an arbitrary fine by any other name.
Please advise. Many many thanks
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

HI. Thank you for your question . My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.



In order to give you an answer tailored to your circumstances, I will just need to ask you some preliminary questions so that I can consider your position from all angles.



How can I help with this?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



I need to know what our legal position is with the overall action of the Council. We do not feel that we should be paying legal cost a) for a hearing we were neither privy to or aware of b) we have been charged for a hearing with no indication as to HOW this sum (which so far has been £200 then £125) was incurred, just WHY it was incurred and c) we want this sum removed from our Council tax as arrears and an acknowledgement by the Council that they in fact made the error.


Should we take this to the local ombudsman considering the Council is not responding to our emails???

OR, should we seek a more local outcome by going directly to the head of the Council Tax dept?????



Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

Can I just try to make sure I understand this?

Why have they opened up a second direct debit? How did they do that without your permission?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Thank you for your response. That is the very same question my husband and I have been grappling with! Why indeed? The problem with non payment started when we cancelled what we considered to be the 2nd one but it appears by doing so we also cancelled the active DD. Up to and including that point we have been paying monthly with no problems.


Puzzling to say the least but we acted immediately we got notification from them by way of a REMINDER that we owe our council tax.


We then sent an email explaining what we consider to be the problem (2nd DD etc) We have yet to have an answer from them as to WHY open a 2nd DD without our consent. We only found out when we asked for a printout of all DD as we were taking a regular look at our outgoings.

I have no idea WHY or indeed HOW they did this (with our bank) without our permission.

They are not providing us with any answers hence my speculative reasoning.


Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

I think they are saying that you were in arrears for a previous year.

Is it your recollection that you have paid off council tax in full every year?

Sorry to put you under pressure but we need to get to the bottom of this.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Sorry to disagree but they are not actually saying we are in arrears for the (a) previous year because we were not.


Up to and including the time we noticed the 2nd DD we have always paid by monthly DD and we were entirely up to date.


We owed nothing. We were particulary vigilant with the Council as in 2008 whilst with NATWEST I noticed the same thing at around the same time of year ie the sudden appearance of a 2nd DD.


We are now with the HALIFAX so we know its not the bank.


The REMINDER we got from the Council was for the nonpayment of tax for the month following on from our cancellation of the 2nd DD which apparently cancelled the active DD. So to answer your question

(I fully understand why you are puzzled because we remain puzzled also) we were NOT in arrears for the previous year and we have been paying by monthly DD with no problems.


As you can see, they are not averse to claiming non-payments so were we in arrears for the previous year, it would not have taken them until Autumn 2012 to claim this arrears! Furthermore, why claim 'arrears' by setting up a 2nd DD?


Do we contact the Head of the Council Tax dept.? My feelings are we should lodge a formal complaint and seek an answer to HOW and WHY a second DD was activated on our account.


If as you say, they are saying we were in arrears for a previous year, why would a 2nd DD be the way to recoup arrears? Furthermore, why then go to Court if you have a means/method at your disposal to recoup such arrears? In fact, why set up a 2nd DD for the exact same amount?


To reiterate, we were not in arrears, never received a reminder and until we cancelled the 2nd (fraudulent DD) we had no reason to or indeed received no correspondence from the Council. In addition, as far as I am aware, any arrears would have been added to the new Council Tax account and monthly payments calculated accordingly.


For the avoidance of doubt, we were not in arrears. They sought a Liability Order based on nonpayment of council tax for the period AFTER we cancelled the 2nd DD which inadvertently cancelled the ACTIVE DD thus leading to our council tax not being paid. It was our email to them explaining this that started a paper trail to which we have had no response.


You may recall that I explained they sent us a REMINDER. We responded with the above explanation (as it was the first we knew of the non-payment)


As a result of the reminder we were obviously alerted to the active DD being cancelled as a knock-on effect of the fraudulent DD being cancelled and told them so in our first email.


We also informed them that the Council Tax will be brought up to date, and we did exactly that.


We were paid up IN FULL in December. They sought a Court Order in JANUARY!! We are still not sure what possibly reason they gave the

Court as we were never informed of their intention to seek payments through the Courts (other than each dept. not speaking with the other) for Tax already paid.


I am convinced there is some fraudulent activity involved but again with no response from them to our emails we have no way of knowing why a 2nd DD appeared on our account.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Just FYI Haringey's Council Tax was frozen for (I believe) 2 consecutive years so there was no need for the DD to be altered in any shape or form. Even so, there would be no need to set up a 2nd DD.


In addition, my Husband got to Pension age this year so is entitled to a reduction in Council Tax for FOR THIS YEAR. Consequently, we would have had to change the amount of DD for the 2013/14 year. There was no reason to change the DD amount for 2012/13 and there were no arrears for that period either.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

I wouldn't waste too much of your time negotiating with the council. You need to deal first with the liability order.

You must make an application to the Court to set aside the liability order. You should be doing that urgently. There was for many years debate over whether that was possible as the Magistrates Court Act 1980 only gives them power to reopen criminal matters.

However, you will have to justify any delay. The case of R (on the application of Newham London Borough Council) v Stratford Magistrates' Court [2008] EWHC 125 (Admin), [2008] All ER (D) 17 (Jan) [2008] RA 108, 173 JP 30 leads on this point and it says that its not enough to show that its in the interests of justice to set these things aside.

If the liability order is set aside then any payments made will be reclaimable and any costs will fall away.

At that stage you can complain to the council to your heart's content.

You might want to complain to the your local Councillor. I cannot immediately see any grounds for these actions on the part of the council and it would be fascinating to know their justification for this.

However, all of this is to be done after you have resolved the liability order. You must deal with that and stop them trying to use bailiffs to enforce in the meantime.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



May I just confirm that I understand your advice correctly.


1. We should apply immediately to have the Liability Order (LO) set aside and be prepared to explain the delay in doing so on our part.


2. Are we applying for the Order made in January which they have used our payment of April's Council Tax to pay towards or the £84

which they claim is outstanding?


(We have no idea how the figures add up )


To date they have not sent us any REMINDERS that we are in arrears with our Council Tax. First payment was made in April and May's payment made on May 3.


As I understand todays letter, the Bailiffs will be used for the £84.


How do we apply to have the Order set aside? No such information came with the Order otherwise we would have gone down that route.





Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
1 Yes, if there are no arrears.

2 To be wholly honest, its very confusing here. You need to get sight of all of your council tax bills which should shed light on what is due and what is not. You will also need your statements from the bank.

You will all of this for the hearing.

To apply for it to be set aside you just call the Magistrates Court and ask them to send out the forms. They may just ask you to attend one morning for the matter to be heard. Things are more slapdash generally in the criminal courts.

But you need to get sight of the council tax forms so that you can work out what you do owe and what you don't.

You seem to be saying they are charing you twice. If so, you must be in a position to prove that.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Thanks for your response.


I get the feeling there is some confusion overall.

The LO was obtained for the CT not paid as a result of cancelling DD2 inadvertently cancelled DD1 for the year 2012/2013 namely Oct and Nov 2012.

When the Council sent us a REMINDER that was when we first became aware that DD2 had cancelled out DD1 We then wrote to them and explain this citing the fact the opening of DD2 on their part was an opening for fraud hence the reason we cancelled. We also pointe dout that payments will be brought up to date. Which they were.


We heard nothing more until we received the LO over a month AFTER we bought our payments up to date.


We again sent an email stating this but once again no response.


We then heard via a telephone call that we are £84 behind. A telephone call to inform us we are behind by £84 was most unusual so on informing the caller that we are NOT in arrears that when I was informed that payments for the year 2013/14 has been used to pay the LEGAL FEES they we apparently incurred by not paying our tax which WE HAD.


So I am not saying they are charging us twice by any means. I am however saying they have obtained an ORDER despite payments having been made, by Debit Card direct to them, and in spite of our emails going unanswered.


They then use this years CT payment to pay off the £200 fine and telephone us to say we are in arrears by £84.



We shall ask for the Form from the Magistrates Courts as advised and get ready for battle.


We do not owe on our Council Tax for last or this year. We paid in FULL and informed them. They obtained an ORDER AFTER payment made in FULL and have never responded to emails,( copies and

acknowledgement of receipt which we do have)


We were NEVER INFORMED OF ANY COURT HEARING OR THE INTENTION TO SEEK ONE and we have never had a response to why they set up DD2.




Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Yes, I understand all of that but you need to get sight of the actual documents.

This needs to summarised down or you will lose the sympathy of the magistrates.

What it seems to come down to is that they are charging you twice without justification.

If so, then you need sight of the bills and your statements proving they were paid.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



I am confused as to why you say they are charging us twice.


How are they? Do you mean they are using this years payment to pay off the legal fine imposed on last year's account, thus leaving our Council Tax account for this year in arrears?


We have all the paper work needed for any hearing but just need clarity on the "charging you twice without justification" point.











Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Well, obviously I won't know at this end why they seem to have opened a second direct debit.

You seem to be saying they are charging you twice and have a liability order when you have paid. If that is right then you just apply for it to be set aside.

Its a really simple point but you must be able to evidence it to the court in a short summary.