Monday, 24 March 2014

A quick reply

I have replied to "Mrs Williams".  I saw little point in giving them both barrels since that wastes only my time.  I'd rather speak with the organ-grinder than the monkey.

Dear Mrs Williams,

Thank you for your letter.

You have been misinformed by Bristow & Sutor.  No such visits took place and no letters were left.  Hence why I was so surprised to learn that Bristow & Sutor were handling the account.  This is typical of the industry, as I discovered with Rundles last year, who also charged for visits not made.  You will note that the CAB says in a survey of 500 people who had bailiffs chasing them between 10 July and 10 December 2013 for council tax debts, 38% were charged fees for visits bailiffs never made.

This is a large enough number for you to treat any assertions from your contractors with suspicion, and as a public servant, you would be negligent if you did not mount a more thorough investigation.  Rogue bailiffs tarnish the reputation of South Gloucestershire Council.  Your refusal to engage in this issue indicates an improper relationship with your contractors.

You will also note that confirming residency from a neighbour I have never met is insufficient proof of a visit.  That would not meet proper evidential standards for a BT or British Gas visitor and it is insufficient for bailiffs.  You also seem to be under the misapprehension that merely attending the property constitutes a visit.  The purpose of the visit allowances is to give the debtor the opportunity to pay.  Since Bristow & Sutor never made any visit, and if they did, they did not leave a letter, there is no basis on which to charge £42.50.  Also, given that I have not met an employee of Bristow & Sutor before, I would not be able to verify that their visitors, (whoever they may be) are certified bailiffs either. You don't know for a fact the alleged visits were made by a certified bailiff, and nor do I.  You are asking me to pay unlawful fees entirely on the basis of hearsay.

Since you have been unable to demonstrate that any visits were made and have refused to investigate properly, you can either drop the charges or see me in court.  An LGO complaint has been lodged.

Peter North.

Friday, 21 March 2014


SGC: Liars

Today I received a phone call from Avon & Somerset Police in response to my fresh complaint about Bristow & Sutor. The plod in question (I didn't catch the name) was refreshingly bright for a plod, and surprisingly polite.  But alas, to no avail.  This year the plod have a whole new line of bullshit. Finally the plod have admitted that advance fee fraud is a criminal matter (and not a civil matter) and did not repeat that usual mantra.  This year, the official line is that they cannot investigate without a ruling from the Local Government Ombudsman on a given case. This does not take account of the fact that the LGO have already made several rulings on "phantom visits" and so Avon & Somerset Police are effectively passing the buck and leaving it to the LGO to decide if a crime has taken place.  An unusual precedent for the police to be farming their work out to quasi-NGO's. 

Unfortunately, trying to get a plod to think past his conditioning is about as fruitful as swatting flies with a hammer.  They have their official line and conveniently, it means they don't have to do anything apart from tick the "no action required" checkbox on their database to say that they have followed up on a complaint.  They must be so proud of their efficiency.

But the fun doesn't stop there.  Today I received a letter from South Gloucestershire Council from "Mrs Willaims".  I have had prior dealings with this odious creature.  She is most unpleasant, as indeed all council employees are.  She asserts that Bristow & Sutor have in fact made prior visits to my property (of which, quelle surprise, there is no evidence whatsoever). She has consulted with them, and taken their word for it.  I am supposed to accept on hearsay that they have visited my property.  Not at any time prior to their "final warning" have their bailiffs made themselves apparent, hence why I was so surprised Bristow & Sutor were the designated bailiff company.

She also asserts that each visit was made by a certified bailiff.  How am I to have confirmed this when I have never met an individual from Bristow & Sutor?  Normally I would ask them for their full name and to see their ID, then check the internet register of certified bailiffs.  I have not been able to confirm this as I have only a first name on which to go by.

Williams asserts that the lack of proper self-identification in no way invalidates the legality of the fees for the alleged visits.  What she is saying is that the word of the bailiff company is sufficient for the council and they will uphold any claim they make without investigation or verification.  But that is nothing we did not know. The underlying theme to all this is that the council and their criminal contractors view a visit as merely driving to the property, and leaving any communications is entirely optional.  I can't say I blame the bailiffs for not doing so, since everything they post through my door is recorded as evidence.

South Gloucestershire Council are not interested as to whether the law has been followed (or even their own guidelines).  Their only concern is that they get their money.  So the next time someone tells you that paying your council tax is some sort of moral duty, remind them that councils take your money under threat of force, and are happy to break their own laws in order to get it.

My own experiences, in addition to the work of and point to a national epidemic of fraud that neither the councils nor the police have any interest in putting a lid on. Naturally I will be writing a full and frank reply to Mrs Williams, which will be published here when I get near internet that works properly (thanks BT).  I would try appealing to the creatures human side but given how it writes and who it works for, it's fair to assume it hasn't got one.  

Last years dispute is still ongoing and this year I hold no greater hope of making a breakthrough, but I take some comfort in that bailiffs are now at least vaguely acknowledging the presence of a regulatory fee schedule on their hastily scribbled, fraudulent communications - and the Plod have at least dropped their "civil matter" mantra by passing the buck to the LGO.  This is progress of sorts. But the police now rely on you giving up and going away.  The LGO will only act when the council complaint process has been followed in full, and you can see where that gets you.

I have to hand it to SGC though.  This year they have swatted up on the law. They're now getting quite devious about this because if they admit just one instance of malpractice then that opens the floodgates.  Consequently I expect them to dangle the threat of prison over my head if I don't pay the fees this time.  But I will have my day in court.  And that will cost the state more than £42.50.  Any attempt to clamp my car will be met the usual resistance.

As soon as my internet is working properly I will post the full letter from SGC.  It is breath-taking, even by their standards, both in its brazenness and arrogance.  I am not surprised "Mrs Williams" does not wish to disclose her full identity, but that in itself tells you rather a lot.

Friday, 14 March 2014

And still they try it on

Hello Ratfans!  It's been a while.  Nothing happens fast in British justice!  Still no sign of the plod on these extra charges.  My barrister informs me that the CPS have chased the police but they have not as yet bothered to reply.  Shocked!  Shocked I tell you!  Howsoever, I shall cross that bridge when I come to it.  I have a new trial date for the criminal damage charge sometime in late May.

Meanwhile, just to make things interesting I decided to drag my feet on this years council tax too.  I received the usual bog standard letters in the post from Rundles, but it seems they have chickened out and passed the job on to Bristow & Sutor.  Fresh meat for the grinder.  Naturally, their frst shot across my bow was about as corrupt as you would expect it to be.  So I have complained to the council...

(Submitted by form to SGC)

I have been sent two letters in the mail from Rundle & Co bailiffs over the last year regarding outstanding council tax (neglecting to specify the amount owed). However, today, a company unknown to me, Bristow and Sutor, hand delivered a "final warning". It was my understanding that Rundles were handling the "debt".

I checked with SGC to see how much was owed. The actual amount outstanding is £700. The law that sets statutory bailiffs fees for collecting unpaid council tax is Regulation 5 of The Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006 which provides for £24.50 for the first visit.

Given than I was not in this morning, the bailiffs have not yet confirmed residency and thus cannot charge, as this is known as a "phantom visit." Only a certified bailiff can charge fees and the bailiff signing the letter, if indeed the individual who delivered it was a certified bailiff (of which there is no evidence), neglected to state his full name, as the form letter specifies he should.

He also states that no charges were added for todays visit and has included his fees in the outstanding amount. This is a photo I took of the letter...

Click for full scale

This is essentially false representation and advance fee fraud. I will be reporting it to the police on Monday. This is not the first time bailiffs working for South Glos Council have attempted to extort fees not owed and charge for phantom visits. Now that I have supplied you with evidence, you must now terminate their contract. They are in breach of even your own guidelines as well as the law.

Peter North.

I will spare you my predictions, but it will be amusing to see what weasel words they come up with this time to justify their complicity in a fraud epidemic.  This helpfully demonstrates that it is not just Rundles who are crooks, but the whole industry is acting outside the law with the tacit approval of the councils and the police.  The police reaction on Monday will be interesting.  I very much expect them to stick to their "civil matter" mantra.  But I know what I'm doing this time around.  And I am going to create some noise.