One of the most dreaded postal arrivals throughout the UK is the yearly Council Tax bill. Arriving each April, this soul-destroying, single piece of A4 paper is concisely broken down into barely-manageable monthly payments of such magnitude that all across our fair country, people are living with a form of social schizophrenia induced by its financially-crippling brevity. How much we individually pay is dependent upon which band your property has been squeezed into and how many are dwelling inside your house at one time or another; whether these denizens happen to be employed or not is a moot point to these ‘State Shylocks’ because unemployment benefits of some kind will fill the monetary void, thus keeping everyone happy.
You see these cash-grasping, Social Marxist local councils are number-crunching our diverse boroughs into a uniform conformity, turning us all into nothing more than boring statistics in a ‘Big Brother’ ledger, our freedoms constricted with worries, stresses and uncertainties. The irony is it’s our hard-earned money that allows these stone-bleeders to exist, indeed flourish in times of economic struggle and looming Government cutbacks, while we struggle to find the coffers for the burgeoning Public Sector pot. And so the liberalised council Apes are on our backs perpetually pounding us for more and more, oblivious that they’re in danger of ruining their free rides with every errant prod...
With my glowering hatred for civil servants now pointed out, it won’t come as any surprise that only this week I’ve had to deal with Oldham council’s Council Tax section, a division so pedantically obtuse that they wouldn’t be out of place at a convention celebrating the greatest sophist arseholes of all-time. As I’m employed part-time, I admittedly do receive partial Council Tax benefit to cover the majority of the monthly coin-drain and as such, I have to pay £13.00 on the 1st of each month; with Oldham council’s involvement, that means I have to stump up this pittance without fail eleven times a year, no excuses. Of course I’m only human and so there are occasions when I have to miss the odd payment, but I always strive to settle the outstanding balance within a couple of weeks, so no damaged done, right...?
No matter how soon you can pay the pence out, if you’ve missed the start of the month deadline then the Council Tax red letter reminder is automatically loosened from an office server somewhere deep in the bowels of Hell. Designed to inflict pain, suffering and ultimately a complete rectal prolapse, complete with associated bowel movements, these flaming papers of rhetorical hatred are jettisoned into our everyday lives to incur something akin to an overdrawn bank statement or hospital correspondence informing you that you have a terminal illness. So, with just two weeks lapsed, my letter flopped down behind the front door and once opened, I was greeted with a crimson header - quite possibly printed with the blood of destitute Proletarian for all I know - informing me:
“Your Council Tax – Second Reminder Notice.”
With red being the subconscious trigger for danger, Oldham council have immediately moved the goal posts inwards for a concentrated blast of personal nervousness and while I was feeling uneasy, this initial shocker is quickly followed up with an even starker sentence:
“A reminder was issued to you on 19 July 2010 asking you to keep your instalments up to date but your account is in arrears again.”
Now, whether they’re counting this red letter as a second letter after the 19th July letter, I don’t know but this is the first letter regarding missing the 1st November pay day, so Oldham council are being inconsiderate t**ts for instigating undue stress in this way. I can just picture the Council Tax office environment now: a group of wastrel f**ks lounging around with sod all to do, being paid to harass and harangue the common people in their communities to the point of implosion and perhaps even taking side bets on individual breakdowns. Someone shouts across the room, “Did you hear about Mr. Thompson? Lost it and was found running naked along Yorkshire Street!” to which a cacophony of shrill laughter is heard ringing out. “YES!” comes from a lad who has his arms held up in the air, “That’s twenty quid I’m up! I knew the old fart wouldn’t be able to handle paying double last week!” All the other morons whoop and holler at this as the lad walks to a chalk board and wipes out Mr. Thompson’s name from lines and lines of other names. Yep, they’re on a beano for destroying lives and they love it.
The real killer line on the letter though is down towards the bottom of the page:
“Payment of £13.00 IN FULL must be made NO LATER THAN 29 November 2010 or LEGAL PROCEEDINGS will commence through OLDHAM MAGISTRATES COURT, which will incur RECOVERY COSTS. ALSO, if payment is made but a further failure to pay occurs, you will lose your right to pay in instalments.”
This is exactly how this paragraph is printed, complete with the selective capital letters in full. How many others must there be trying to make ends meet, only to feel the threat of being dragged into court and publically humiliated in the local Oldham Chronicle for not being able to cross a palm with silver? Years ago, I was thrust into a nightmare of this council’s doing because I’d moved around the country and then relocated back into Oldham, but because I didn’t keep up with all my postage as I should have done, things went slightly awry. Even though I was a council tenant with a tenancy agreement and was paying my rent and Council Tax, I had my wages seized via a court order to pay back Council Tax from TEN YEARS BEFORE! The thing is, the council knew where I had lived for the last three years but they never sent me any communication or informed me about any court action, they just took a large chunk of my working pay, regardless of the effect upon my life. I’m sure my own experience is just the tip of the iceberg when considering the amount of struggling masses out in the real world, who will miss a week’s Council Tax in order to buy some food or get to work when a car breaks down or has to juggle debts one week to the next.
Then finally, to add insult to injury, the last paragraph reads like the ramblings of a wife beater justifying his actions to a bruised and battered spouse, sure in the knowledge forgiveness will be forthcoming:
“If you are experiencing financial difficulties or any other problems which may delay payment, please contact my Customer Services section on 0161 -------.”
I know the letter is an automated response and everyone who misses a payment will receive the exact same wording but here lies the problem, as I see it: I’m an individual and as such, no one else is having the same problems as I, so please don’t lump us all together as socially-inept, Council Tax failures as everyone has a different story, okay?
I have a friend whose son died in a car crash a couple of years ago now and who has struggled onwards with life. Then, just a couple of months ago, her local council contacted her regarding her Council Tax bill from the year her son was killed and asked her why there was a shortfall in the payments. My friend explained that her son had died in that year and she’d been advised by her benefits office that with his passing, there was no need to pay more Council Tax as she was the only one living in the house now. The Council Tax caller wouldn’t accept any of it, demanded a death certificate and threatened my friend with court for the ‘missing’ amount, even though my friend was in tears whilst trying to rectify this horrible situation. It was eventually all sorted out but there was no apology from the office in question and my friend still had to pay some money back because she couldn’t prove her son had moved out six months before his car crash anyway...
If anyone ends up reading this drivel I’ve written and is connected to any of the councils across the UK, then please allow me to give some advice before I tell you to hang your head in shame: try to show some compassion to your poor callers at the end of their tethers, as a good listener will be far more appreciated than a good talker in circumstances like these.