Reclaim your Council Tax Charges…is this one for Martin Lewis

In a previous post I mentioned that one of the worst things about working in Local Government is the love of the private sector that senior managers have. They believe that a council is a brand and that we have customers. As I will rant until I am old and grey we are not and  do not.

If they are insisting on being viewed upon as private sector brands then maybe they should behave like them when it comes to the charges they apply to debts.

At the local authority I work for if you miss your Council Tax payment and you are summonsed you will be charged around £50.00 for a letter to be sent to you. If it goes to court then further costs are added.

I’m not doubting that there are costs associated with sending a letter but last time I looked at myself and my other admin drones no one was getting paid £50.00 per letter.

With the introduction of the local council tax schemes many people on Employment Support Allowance are having to pay Council Tax for the first time. In my area it is a low amount of around £3.00 per week. Then again when you have £70.70 per week to cover everything I’m sure £3.00 is not trivial. To charge someone £50.00 for failing to pay around £9.00 worth of Council Tax is immoral.

So. Should local authorities be limited on the amount they can charge people for building up Council Tax arrears? After all the banks they are so desperate to emulate with the call centres and “speedy resolution” can no longer charge extortionate fees.

Bunch of Atos ers

One of the worst problems with working in local government is that councilors and heads of service have convinced themselves that councils are no longer drab grey blocks of administration but instead flowery brands that have customers. We do not have customers. Customers have the choice to go elsewhere.

As more council services are “outsourced” to private companies we will see more style over substance. A relation of mine with 35 years of experience as an N.H.S nurse recently got a taste of this when she applied for a job with Atos assessing people for Employment Support Allowance.

She attended an interview in London which she though went well but was advised she had not got through to the next stage. Two weeks later she received a phonecall and was advised that as she had flown through the technical knowledge part of the interview but had fallen short on her knowledge of Atos . Because of this they would like to invite her back for the next stage of interviews. She spent the next two weeks reading up about Atos and their corporate strategy.

The day before her interview she was contacted and advised that there had been a mistake and the person who had phoned her had got their information muddled. As she failed on her knowledge of Atos she would not be invited for a second interview. Had her technical knowledge been flawed however she would have been invited back.

What does it matter what Atos’s corporate strategy is. Their customers cannot go elsewhere if the service is no good.

Why being a Housing Benefits officer is the best job in the world

I live in an area of high unemployment and even higher rents. Things are now at the stage where one in three households in my town are receiving either Housing or Council Tax Reduction. I live in the area I work and I love the feeling as I walk to the office that I am helping one in three of the houses I walk past.

I also love that my family and friends know that when they are in financial trouble they can come to me for advice.

However the flip side of my job is that I need to make sure that money goes to the right people. Occasionally I need to ask questions that people do not like. Usually it is because I think they are withholding information and do you know what…I am usually right.

My rule of thumb is that the louder they complain the more guilty they are and today it proved true. A year ago a couple I had requested information from kicked up a fuss, complained to their M.P and tried to bully me into stopping requesting information from them. I didn’t stop and today they were sentenced to 50 hours community service for neglecting to mention a job which netted them up to £700.00 per week.

So if you receive a letter from a benefits officer don’t assume the worse. They want to help you,  that is unless you are on the fiddle. If you are not only do they want to catch you, the chances are they already have.

Comping my way out of debt. Mad or desperate.

Today I have entered over 100 online competitions. My reasons for this are purely financial as Competition wins can be sold on at a tax free profit. My main skills are in data entry so I have the ability to enter a frightening amount of competitions in a relatively short space of time.

Make no mistake tough I find it dull and am treating it as a second job. up at five and on the net trying to win cash, ipads, cd, books, anything I can sell for a few pounds.

Again this isn’t a whinge but another example of an opportunity available to those who are struggling at the moment. I can enter 100 competitions in under an hour. I’m pretty sure I’ve wasted a good hour a day watching pointless vids on youtube or stalking people on facebook. I can easily afford to drop an hour a day for this purpose and who knows I may even win a few things. I’ll keep you posted on wins and profits.

Hello world…time for me to pull my finger out.

Hello world…as all wordpress blogs must start.

I am a father of four, benefits officer and private landlord. By 2017 I face the very real prospect of being out of work and receiving no financial aid from the state.

In 2006 I bought a flat for my wife and my stepson to live in. One child became 2 which became three and then 4 very quickly. The flat dropped into negative equity which led to me becoming a private landlord and renting a house to live in.

I have spent the last 4 years sending every spare penny I have into the flat and am delighted to be out of negative equity. However under the Universal Credit rules I will not qualify for any state assistance as I now have capital of over £16000,00. This is fair enough but it is frightening. No more child benefit (£240.00 per month) no more tax credits (£780.00 every four weeks) and no more Housing Benefit (£400.00 per month). That’s a cool £1485.00 per month gone if I still have a job. When my job eventually goes I will receive a redundancy payment but no Universal Credit.

Most blogs from people effected by welfare reform who start blogs spend a lot of time criticizing the world around them but spend little time looking at themselves. My situation has been caused by bad financial decisions.  I’m not going to moan. Life and the state have been good to me. I will get out of this but it will be hard.

A few stats as of 19/06/13

Mortgage £101,000.00 outstanding. Flat is currently empty.

Credit Cards  £1200.00

Overdraft – £2700.00

I am at a crossroad. Do I give up and sell the flat or do I work hard, take a few chances and try to come out of this better educated, healthier and richer. I won’t be happier. My life as it is now is perfect.