Serial Convictions 91

For the second time in six months Edinburgh City Council has been to court and obtained a summary warrant against me for non-payment of Council Tax. On neither occasion was I given any notice of proceedings or any opportunity to defend myself. On both occasions, I had actually paid the tax before the warrant was issued, but – without telling me – payment had been refused by Edinburgh City Council.

I moved in to my new home in Edinburgh at end November 2014. It was a somewhat tumultuous period in my life and I confess it was after New Year before I got round to sorting out the Council Tax. When I did this, I phoned up and paid by credit card, entering my reference number and the payment amount electronically. There was no warning this had not gone through.

I was therefore astonished to discover that, after I had made this payment, Edinburgh Council went to court and obtained a summary warrant against me. This was because my payment had been refused not by the card but by Edinburgh City Council – unbeknownst to me – as it had been referred to the grandiloquently entitled “Sherriff’s Officers”, Scott & Co. The payment had to be made to them and their exorbitant fees had vastly increased the amount due. The “Sherriff’s Officers” are, of course really bailiffs, or licensed bullies and enforcers.

That was infuriating, but I paid up, even though I am very dubious indeed about the system. It seems to me entirely unethical for the body owed the debt to refuse to accept payment for it, and then go to court for non-payment.

Having eventually paid the Council Tax plus the large fees of Scott & Co, I found myself financially embarrassed just as 2015/16 Council Tax now became due. I therefore delayed until 25 May when I paid this year’s council tax, 50 days late. I am this evening astonished to find that on 28 May Edinburgh City Council again went to court and obtained a judgement against me for non-payment, three days after I paid. Again I had no notice of the court case or that payment had been refused. I today – eight days after I paid – received a letter stating that my payment had been refused because it had not been made through Scott & Co. I had received no letter indicating I had to pay through them. When I paid – online this time – everything seemed to go through and I got a reference number and confirmation.

It is astonishing to me that under two months late is considered a sufficiently late payment for the Council to go to court for summary judgement for debt recovery. I know of no other council, public body or utility that acts in such an ultra-draconian manner. Is that really the norm here in Edinburgh? That seems to me astonishingly harsh in a period of austerity where people are struggling financially.

I confess I am not in a comfortable financial situation, but there are a great many people much worse off than me. Piling extra court and bailiffs’ costs upon them so quickly and brutally seems to me astonishingly lacking in compassion. My personal situation was initially caused more by forgetfulness and pre-occupation than lack of money. But it has made me realise just how, in these times of austerity, the financial pressures on people can snowball out of control so quickly, and how much despair must surround us unseen.

As for the bailiffs of Scott & Co. (in fact a private partnership owned by a husband and wife whose connections to the City Council could well merit close investigation), these parasitic scum disgust me, living high on the misery of the poor.

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91 thoughts on “Serial Convictions

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  • Abe Rene

    Perhaps you should run for the council yourself and have Scott & Co dismissed!

  • Mary

    Former Dundee Man. I believe Carmichael’s lies are to be the subject of an ‘inquiry’. Yes yet another enquiry. A growth area.

    Craig should get onto Private Eye. In the Back or Rotten Boroughs would cover it. The operations of Scott and Co need the oxygen of publicity.

  • Googler

    The child maintenance agency, which is one of the most brutal organisations in existence, popularised this kind of financial abuse, but they put euphemisms on it and the public doesn’t see how much total despair it causes. I don’t have such a problem with them pursuing fathers with the means to pay, but they mostly serve as yet another organisation to criminalise the poor. In my case, it has consistently overcharged, leaving me with very little to exist on. I take care of my kids half of the week, but it does not recognise my needs are the same as the other parent, simply because I am male. When I complained, it canceled my direct debit, blamed its inability to extract money on me, and imposed a deduction from earnings, and arbitrarily increased my payments. When my income was below threshold for several months, it accrued arrears instead of reassessing my ability to pay. You do not want to have children in this country is the gist of it. Because children are treated as objects of ownership and means to shift funds around so as to ensure one parent is not a total parasite on the state.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    NB Craig there is something in the link I posted regarding council tax arrears. J

  • craig Post author

    John Spencer Davis,

    I do not owe a penny to anyone else and would not owe a penny to Edinburgh Council if they had accepted the payments which I made to them. This is not a question of debt management. It is a question of council maladministration.

  • G H Graham


    Put the bloody PayPal button on your website.

    What follows, is a short version of a true story in the hope that it may lift your spirits if not your bank balance.

    I lived in the USA for about a decade. After the stock market crash in 2007/2008, I decided to dabble in day trades. I wasn’t that good but made some income; enough to get by on.

    Imagine my horror when in 2009 I received a 30 day settlement demand from the IRS to the tune of US$183,000. I knew it was a mistake but I literally trembled every time I re-read the letter as I tried to make sense of it.

    I’m originally from Glasgow (not sure if that’s a qualification of anything) & I don’t take shite from anyone, not even the US Government. But I couldn’t afford a tax lawyer, so from the web, I downloaded the entire US Tax Code.

    At 3,951,104 words long, the U.S. Tax Code is currently seven times the length of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, It is also twice the length of the King James Bible plus the entire works of Shakespeare combined.

    So I spent a week reading it to find out all the relevant bullshit laws, conditions, exceptions, calculations etc.

    I then spent four days crafting a reply which demonstrated the errors in their calculations including the $55,000 in late payment penalties, interest & fees. Eventually, I deduced that the actual amount I really owed was $4,400 & sent my reply by registered mail.

    The reply from the IRS was quite surprising. It agreed with me & offered a 12 month payment plan so that I could settle amicably. Thus, I reduced an incorrect $183,000 tax liability to 12 easy payments of £367 (about £237).

    So, no matter who you are up against, it may still be possible to fight back & win. Even when it is the mighty bureaucracy of the US Government.

    Fuck Edinburgh Council.

  • John Goss

    Perhaps we should all drop Edinburgh Council an email to ask what they are up to.

    [email protected]

    I’ve just sent the following.

    “I have read Craig Murray’s blog and realise that Edinburgh City Council is persecuting him. He has only recently moved to Edinburgh, tried to pay his council tax, and was not informed that he could not pay it directly to the council, and had instead to go through a private firm which levied its own extortionate charges.

    Don’t you think it would be in the best interests of all concerned to rectify this mistake and get back some credibility for Edinburgh City Council?

    Your sincerely,

    John Goss”

  • Republicofscotland

    Well how else do you expect Edinburgh council to pay for it’s over bloated white elephant tram system.

  • Summerhead

    Can I suggest paying in installments by direct debit. That’s how most people pay and costs no extra.

  • Old Mark

    ‘This is not a question of debt management. It is a question of council maladministration.’

    Craig- then submit a formal complaint to Edinburgh CC; if they stonewall, and refuse either to admit their practices are flawed, or produce a reasonable explanation, go to this outfit-

    Scottish councils previously came under the remit of the Local Government Ombudsman, who I know from direct experience give complainants a fair hearing. Until quite recently they heard complaints about Scottish councils, as well as those in England and Wales.I do hope the remit of the SPSO (presumably at the SNP’s behest)hasn’t been extended to cover up Council malpractice north of the border.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Craig Murray
    04/06/2015 12:50pm

    I understand that. The debt guide was posted as general advice as there is much talk on here about debt, arising from your posting. The council tax arrears section has information (for example, dealing with bailiffs) which may be of some assistance.

    Kind regards,


  • nevermind

    Yes Mary and Loyds Bank shares are to be flogged off as well another 5 billion worth.
    Did he not say before the election that he would first allow the public to purchase these funds, before financial institutions are to be considered?
    They are really dishing it out.
    Apparently some 40% of GP’s surgeries have already been sold on to some large concerns, on the quiet, off course.
    I wonder whats behind these companies and whether they can keep this under wraps, just like that.

  • Fwl

    The strange thing is that debts (not sure about tax ones) collected by a court bailiff go up and up, but when the writ expires and if the bailiff has failed they go back down.

  • Teddy-sue

    East Ayrshire Citizen’s Advice no less, advised me that ” the Council can demand full payment of Council Tax at the start of the year, they are doing you a favour by allowing you to pay it by monthly installments”. The CAB office is directly joined onto East Ayrshire Council’s offices.

  • Sate

    Sorry to hear this Craig, it’s ridiculous, but is indeed what Edinburgh Council does. Agree with DaveM, it’s a lovely city but anything the council are involved in becomes a monumental disaster. I really do wonder where they recruit their overpaid ‘geniuses’ from. Some of the ideas they have, you have to wonder if they run them past anyone that’s even been to primary school. They are at it on so many levels that I wouldn’t be too surprised if Sepp has been involved. We need to stand up to them, hold them to account, and believe me, I do try to. £160k for a chief exec – achieving what exactly? – is indeed disgusting, particularly in the current climate. But… This is Edinburgh. Unfortunately.

  • Alex


    I respect and understand your reluctance to accept payments and the pressure you may feel to produce regular content. How about this for a compromise? At the end of every post, include a sign-off, saying, “If you liked this post, please consider making a gesture of appreciation to the author”, along with a Paypal button.

    That way, you’re only being paid for content you’ve already produced, and would hopefully feel under no obligation to commit to regular deadlines.

    Just a suggestion, from a long-term and appreciative reader.

  • Mary

    Two sad examples here of the effects of heartless action.

    Disability benefits: Court to rule on delay test case

    ‘The High Court is expected to rule later on whether the government took too long to process benefit claims by two disabled people.

    The unnamed pair waited nine months for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), and they say this left them dependent on loan sharks and food banks.

    They claim the delay was unlawful.’

    Father hanged himself after Child Support Agency wrote to him demanding £11,000 in backdated maintenance payments for son who’s now 22

    Ian Sandywell was told to pay £520 per month to the Child Support Agency
    Had feared he would be unable to pay his mortgage or support his wife
    Was found dead at his home in Stoke-on-Trent by wife Jo-Ann Balsamo
    Says she believes the demanding letters were final straw for her husband


    The CSA is now the Child Maintenance Service. Seems to be faceless. Is it a quango? Who directs it?–but-is-it-better-9658633.html

    Parents are left to their own devices to make financial arrangements.

  • Anne Lawrie

    I agree with the others about allowing anyone to donate for THIS post, Craig. That way you won’t feel obliged to produce anything else, anytime soon. If I donate to a busker entertaining me in the street, that doesn’t oblige that busker to be there any time I happen to be passing.
    In these hard times, we are all aware of other peoples’ difficulties, and help where we can – even if we’re not too well off ourselves.

    When dealing with some of these ‘jobsworth’ officials, it’s useful to read their stuff & quote it back to them. Several years ago (before I was retired I had a part time job plus my state pension. I had received a letter from the tax man acknowledging my pension. However they didn’t include it in my PAYE deductions. I received a bill for several thousands. However, their own rules stated that it would be not be payable if I had reason to believe my tax affairs were in order. After much correspondence, I had the ‘debt’ written off. The following year the same thing happened! It was much easier to get it ‘written off’ – I knew exactly what to do. The bottom line is that I actually did owe the money, but their own incompetence prevented them from collecting it. There’s a particular joy about a ‘gift’ from the tax man!

    During these difficult times we must all help each other. In a couple of years we’ll be able to let Edinburgh Council (& all the other councils) exactly what we think of them.

  • Mary

    The High Court have ruled against HMG in the case of the delay in paying allowances to two disabled people.

    No damages will be paid.

    ‘Responding to the judgement, Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: “The Court has rightly dismissed the claimants’ absurd suggestion that their human rights had been breached.

    “As a result they are not entitled to damages.

    “We have taken decisive action to speed up PIP waiting times and we are pleased the Court has recognised the huge progress made.

    “The average new PIP claimant now waits only seven weeks for an assessment.”‘

    Perhaps Tomlinson should experience living without income for an extended period.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    05/06/2015 11:24am

    Personal Independence Payment has been a disgraceful shambles. I dealt with one person who had been waiting eleven months for a decision. I wrote to the person’s MP and a decision was made within a fortnight.

    Kind regards,


  • Beth

    John Goss—I think that is a good idea — everybody should email them. I know from my daughters experience that they already can’t cope with their emails and phone calls. You are supposed to be able to request a 48 hour call back from Edinburgh council tax office but we are still waiting two weeks later. My daughter ended up in same boat as Craig because mail was delivered to an empty flat. Still fighting Scott and Co—have been since 2013.
    We can’t blame this on Westminster or the Tories can we ? We all voted Yes but a lot of injustice is being perpetrated by SNP/Labour councils. We have 56 SNP MPs in England hopefully trying to bring about a more just country—-Maybe we should be petitioning the Scottish Parliament to stop this racket that Scott and Co have got going.

  • Mary

    I agree John about the scheme with the equally asinine acronym. We have PIPs from IDS and TPIMs from May. Easy to get confused.

    In spite of the LimpIcs fiasco and their gross mishandling of prison and other government contracts such as at the detention centres at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth, G4S have been awarded an £18m contract over 5 years to operate the child maintenance service.

    ‘The government renewed its commitment to helping and supporting separated families to work together for the sakes of their children today by committing to the Child Maintenance Options service for a further five years.

    It announced that G4S will be the new provider of the service following a competitive tendering process. The contract, which is worth £18m over five years, will see the company deliver the specialist contact centre for separated parents.

    The organisation will continue to provide Child Maintenance Options’ expert help and support via telephone, text, online chat and social media, to help separated parents sort out child maintenance.’

    The child maintenance service looks like a free for all,’fight it out between yourselves, we don’t want to know’, operation.


    Anyway, it was jolly good to read that G4S’s AGM was disrupted yesterday by the PSC.

    Palestine solidarity campaigners dominate annual meeting of G4S

    ‘But campaigners were here to get answers, and there was to be no easy way out for the board.

    Questioner after questioner demanded to know exactly when G4S would be terminating its contracts with the Israel Prison Service, Israeli police stations and the Israeli military — something Almanza had mentioned at last year’s AGM, but without giving dates.

    This year, Almanza said this would happen “at the end of 2017” but added it was “impossible” to give a precise month.’

    PS Whilst finding out about G4S, I read that Nick Buckles, the previous CEO who presided over the LimpIcs fiasco, ‘retired’ aet 52 with a fortune of +£16m. Idiocy and inefficiency are thus rewarded within the current system.

  • Mary

    Thumbs down by the Economist for BLiar’s latest move.

    ‘In our confusing times, freedom of speech, including edgy and offensive speech, needs sophisticated defenders, as well as an intelligent drawing of lines at the point where incitement to violence begins. At last week’s Oslo Freedom Forum, a gathering of human-rights defenders with an irreverently libertarian ethos, the British writer Kenan Malik put the case in a trenchant way. “The idea that you censor free speech in order to challenge bigotry raises two questions: who decides what is to be censored, and who most benefits from the censorship,” he said. “If we want to defend freedom of religion, we have to defend the right to offend…” His words were well received in an audience that included many varieties of religious and non-religious belief.

    This much is clearly true: rising racial and religious antagonisms are a threat to the social peace of Europe. But the legalistic solutions proposed by Mr Blair and Mr Kantor are not the cleverest way of responding.’

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