Attack of the Bailiffs 172

I posted in detail about how on moving I muddled my Council Tax and was astonished at the speed with which Edinburgh City Council set the bailiffs upon me. Through my local MP I have now received clarification that Edinburgh City Council take people to court as soon as their payment is 42 days late.

I find that absolutely incredible. People are human, they make mistakes, they may be temporarily short of cash. I cannot think of any other body that is so aggressive in subjecting people to the judicial system for a small delay. No commercial company would dream of taking people to court for just being 42 days late, the utility companies and banks would in fact not to be allowed to do so by regulators and the inland revenue certainly are much less predatory.

Do not misunderstand me. People should pay their tax, on time. I tried to pay mine 46 days late for which I apologise and am happy to accept a late payment penalty. But I can think of absolutely no reason why it was necessary to take me to court for paying my Council Tax in May instead of April.

Actually I can think of one reason – to make enormous money for Scott & Co, the bailiffs. I tried to pay by online direct debit on 25 May, not knowing that on 19 May Edinburgh Council had already referred me to court. My payment appeared accepted and I got a confirmation number from Edinburgh City Council. Three days later, on 28 May, they obtained a court warrant against me. Edinburgh City Council have not taken any payment from my direct debit and they refuse to take any payment from my direct debit. They both refuse to take the payment and at the same time continue to harass me for non-payment.

The reason is they have no interest in collecting my tax. What they want is to make money for Scott & Co., a private company owned by an extremely wealthy husband and wife partnership. I cannot now pay Edinburgh City Council but have to make the payment to this private company including their exorbitant fees.

I have no objection to paying any late penalty to Edinburgh City Council, but when any City Council in Scotland is primarily interested in channeling money to a private company and making millionaire parasites richer, then I look at the size of the houses and value of the cars of councillors, ex-councillors, and senior officials and I ponder, deeply.

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172 thoughts on “Attack of the Bailiffs

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  • KingOfWelshNoir

    It’s not just Edinburgh. I had a similar although not quite as serious experience. I received a Council Tax bill from Oxfordshire council and mentally parked it with the intention of paying it when the reminder came. I mean, there is always a reminder followed by a final reminder, right? Not a bit. I was shocked to receive a court summons instead. I paid the bill pronto and was not required to attend court but I was rather shaken by this: receiving a summons is a deeply unsettling thing for someone who normally never comes into contact with the Law. I was astonished that the Council could behave like this.

  • G H Graham

    Of course, if you had a PayPal button, we could contribute, not to your council tax but to the case you might consider presenting to the court.

    I am certainly not a legal expert or even an enthusiast but if I were a magistrate, I would at least be curious to discover why Edinburgh City Council, once presented with a valid form of payment, refuses said payment. And then adds further injury by informing the debtor that the debt can only be paid via a 3rd party, with added fees of course.

    While there is a perfectly reasonable case for claiming a late payment penalty by the Council, I can see no reasonable grounds for then rejecting direct payment of that late penalty.

    Perhaps one of your more learned readers might oblige. Meanwhile, I’d be happy to assist in starting a fund raiser with which you can use to give the Council a legal kick up the arse. Much like the good folks in Orkney are doing with Carmichael.

  • Mary

    Their ‘allowances’

    and including their expenses for year ending 31.3.2015, the total was £1,298,097.83


    Same all over the country Craig. One giant trough.

    eg Surrey CC

    New Surrey cabinet associate roles dubbed £5k ‘jobs for the boys’
    New positions will support cabinet members and can be appointed by the leader at any time
    Thousands of pounds of public money will be spent on new Surrey County Council posts, branded by one opposition councillor as ‘jobs for the boys’.
    Council leader David Hodge appointed four Conservatives as cabinet associates in May this year, claiming that the council’s eight cabinet members needed their support.

  • Chris Taylor

    That’s nothing Craig. In North Tyneside we paid by direct debit. They miscalculated the payment by 24p over the course of the year (their mistake, not ours) and without even asking for the 24p they sent bailiffs from Bournemouth – about as far away as it’s possible to get. Fortunately our local councillor sorted it but it was a bloody nightmare.

  • G H Graham

    The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) (Scotland) Regulations 1992 can be found here …

    Note that amendments have been made on at least five occasions indicated here …

    However, a quick scan showed that most are trivial so key provisions should remain in the first link I posted above. Provision 28 reads …

    Contents of demand notices

    28.—(1) Any demand notice issued by a levying authority must contain the matters specified in Part I of Schedule 2.
    (2) Any demand notice issued by a levying authority must contain the matters specified in Part II of Schedule 2, except to the extent that previous notification of those matters has already been given (whether under these Regulations or otherwise) to the person, or any one of the persons, to whom the notice is addressed.

    and here’s the nasty bit that is written into law which describes how little time one is awarded to pony up if you are late in paying any of your instalments …

    Failure to pay instalments

    22.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2), where—


    a notice under this Part has been served by a levying authority on a liable person;


    instalments in respect of the council tax and the council water charge to which the notice relates are payable in accordance with Schedule 1 or an agreement under paragraph (4) of regulation 21; and


    any such instalment is not paid in accordance with that Schedule or that agreement;
    the levying authority shall serve a notice ( “reminder notice”) on the liable person stating—


    the instalments required to be paid;


    the effect of paragraph (3) below; and


    where the notice is the second such notice as regards the relevant year, the effect of paragraph (4) below.
    (2) Nothing in paragraph (1) shall require the service of a reminder notice—


    where all the instalments have fallen due; or


    in the circumstances mentioned in paragraph (4).
    (3) If, within the period of 7 days beginning with the day on which a reminder notice is issued, the liable person fails to pay any instalments which are or will become due before the expiry of that period, the unpaid balance of the estimated amount specified in the notice referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (1) shall become payable by him at the expiry of a further period of 7 days beginning with the day of the failure.
    (4) If, after making a payment in accordance with a reminder notice which is the second such notice as regards the relevant year, the liable person fails to pay any subsequent instalment as regards that year on or before the day on which it falls due, the unpaid balance of the estimated amount specified in the notice referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (1) shall become payable by him on the day following the day of the failure.

  • Ted

    East Ayrshire Council have the same cosy relationship with debt collectors/sheriff officers Stirling Park. They operate in much the same way as Edinburgh Council, when it comes to making extra money from council tax payers, i.e. charges galore and no chance to defend yourself in court, since your are only informed after the event.

  • deepgreenpuddock

    i wonder if there is a contractual arrangement with the ‘bailiffs’. Would ECC be in breach of an agreement such as
    ‘all non-payments , after 42 days are referred to the collection agency’ Obviously the collection agency is keen to collect its fees and will ensure the letter of the contract is adhered to.
    i think however that there may be some responsibility on the ECC to make people aware of their responsibilities.
    For instance is there some automatic means by which a selling agent must pass a bullet proof information sheet (i.e part of the purchase agreement, or rental agreement, ) or an interim payment system so as to avoid the possibility of a late payment except by wilful neglect.
    Seems to me to be perfectly do-able but is there a pre-disposition within cooncil circles to ensure some degree of default for the less vigilant as it is relatively lucrative. Perhaps the process is made punitive because costs are so high but it seems improbable that the added costs are so great and if the benefit is going to a private company instead of the council. What is the purpose of such an arrangement, unless it is (a). corrupt or (b) incompetent ?
    Are there accounts of the procedures, and the amounts collected as penalties and the costs?
    I too am suspicious, if only t suggest that it could be done better.

  • Tom Welsh

    Funny how most British people (and, perhaps, Americans) continue to believe that corruption only happens “abroad”. Perhaps it’s something to do with the steady drip of stories in the media about how corrupt foreigners are. Apart from Private Eye’s reliable “Rotten Boroughs” column, one hardly ever hears such stories about the UK. I wonder why? Although perhaps if council officials can take actions that are calculated to enrich private companies, is it so unbelievable that the officials and the companies between them might be able to influence the contents of newspapers, TV and radio?

  • andreas

    yes, unfortunate, but “better” the bailiffs than your house burnt down? see ari ben-menashe’s case about 2 years ago, robert parry o9f iran-contra fame was the only journalist who wrote about it.
    but it happened in canada, not in the uk, seems more civilized in this respect….

  • glenn_uk

    Astonishing that any “body” (such as a council) is allowed to treat a citizen like this. Corporations, such as supermarkets, get away with not paying their suppliers for many months, and there’s little they can do about it (particularly because they’ll be threatened with cutting them out if they make a fuss).

    If I went to the small claims court claiming a bill had not been paid, would the magistrate just say “Fine – send in the bailiffs!” ? Or would the magistrate want to know if the outstanding sum was trivial, had sufficient notice (together with reminders) been given, was there hardship involved?

    I had threats from bailiffs concerning outstanding debts from a previous tenant, upon moving into a flat a few years back. It was entirely my responsibility to prove that I wasn’t the person who had vacated the property, and do it in good time, or they would be busting my door down and “taking away your goods and chattels”.

    Odious business all round.

  • Mary

    O/T – [Comment deleted]

    [ Mod: Please keep posts ON topic, at least for the first couple of pages of the latest thread. Thank you. ]

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    I sympathise with you and agree that the Council appears to be showing a remarkable lack of flexibility: while certain procedures are necessary to deal with late- (or non-) payers it should be possible for the Council to have discretion to skip or reverse certain steps in that procedure.

    I admit to being slightly confused about the sequence of events as described in the post, ie, the relationship between the time limits,the various steps of the procedure and the dates (in May)you gave.

    Would it therefore be possible to have a simple timeline, eg

    xx/yy/zzzz – last date for payment

    xx/yy/zzzz – this happened/I did …..

    xx/yy/zzzz – that happened/I did…. ?

  • Republicofscotland

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Scott & Co were a ALEO of Edinburgh City Council, or maybe some council members receive a kickback, from Scott & Co. for services rendered.

    Glasgow City Council have many ALEO’s, including carparks that haven’t made a profit in years.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Yep. A common experience. Bureaucracies crush people. I once was forced to pay SOMEONE ELSE’S substantial unpaid Council Tax plus fees and other bills by the same type of mafia-style protection racketeering on behalf of a local authority and other suppliers. I should’ve got legal advice – but legal advice costs lots and lots of money (and time) and there was probably some cunnilingual law in the small print that would’ve said I have to pay.

    I really resent this kind of imtimidation of law-abiding citizens who actually do may their taxes if it’s my own bills that are in question, but if it’s someone else’s taxes – someone who allegedly is untraceable because the rental agency was crooked, the occupant (tennant) who was not poor was crooked and the latter may well have decamped abroad leaving lots of unpaid bills – well you can imagine how angry I was. Sweat your guts out, endlessly sell your labour and do lots of good and this is what you get!

    A pox on all of them. I do hope karma will catch up with each one of them in an appropriate manner – but of course it won’t. I’d love to exact revenge like Clint Eastwood chewing on the butt of a cigar – but of course since I don’t own a donkey, I can’t. It’s death of a saleman, it’s bustableedinbloodinvessel, it’s Mad Max on crack. Know the feeling? I sympathise, Craig.

    There may be tale in there somewhere.

  • Dale

    Scott & Co will have paid 90p on the £ or so for your debt. You didn’t ask them to. They will have paid most of your council tax for you!

    They are not the council and do not have the same statutory status as the council. Your legal responsibility is to get the council paid, not to pay a debt collector. The debt collector has no legal contract with you, by which they can take you to court. For that to have happened, you would have had to have voluntarily (with access to independent legal advice) accepted the deal by which the debt collector paid your bills for you. Given that this didn’t happen, I’m not sure they have any legal recourse to force you to pay them anything.

    They can send you nasty letters, and do nasty things to your credit rating, but I’m not sure they can actually take you to court over money that you do not, and did not ever, owe them as you never voluntarily engaged in a contract.

    I am not a lawyer. I’m just having fun with debt collectors and a supposed debt to Scottish Power, for which I do not recall Scottish Power ever having sent me a final bill, with the actual meter readings at which I formally changed to my subsequent supplier. Likewise, I’m happy to pay my debts, but I balk at the idea of paying Scottish Power on the basis of figures I am not afforded the opportunity to challenge.

  • lysias

    Sir John Kerr, Baron Kerr of Kinlochard and the Deputy Chairman of Scottish Power, was one of those in attendance at the recent Bilderberg meeting in Austria. We’re talking about the real Powers That Be here.

  • Ben

    Bureaucrats are just politicians without a constituency. They only answer to those who can shit-can or assist the career path.

    De-centralized gubmint (anarchy) is the remedy. Work within the system and become the same demented fools you formerly opposed. How does anyone with principles watch themselves lower their expectations every day with each compromise. I don’t have that answer.

  • Davey

    Essentially Sheriff Officers are Officers of Court as I understand it. I may be wrong, however. This may be of interest

    Then go to Companies House and check out the likes of the Scott & Co etc. All private companies.
    Like Dale above I agree that if one does not have a contract with the debt collectors unless one consents then they have no way of pursuing other than through threats and intimidation.
    Similarly, where is the contract between you and ECC?!

  • lysias

    Problems a commenter was having with Scotttish Power were mentioned in the post immediately before mine. My post was a response to that.

  • Salford Lad


    Well done that man. A practical primer in dealing with the usual extortionate ex-copper heavy gang bailiff.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Come off it, Lysias.

    A “response” would have addressed the issue/personal experience evoked by Dale and not told us that Sir John Kerr attended the Bilderberg meeting.

    You’re talking bollocks again.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Talking bollocks and testing the Moderation. Don’t try and be cute.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    It pains me to say it, but I think it was (just) on the right side of relevance. 🙂

  • lysias

    My response did address Dale’s problem. I meant to suggest Dale would have trouble winning redress against such powerful people.

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