Wednesday 28 May 2014

Predatory behaviour: Give us your wonga

Predatory behaviour: Give us your wonga
Councils up and down the land have been leading the fight against "predatory" pay-day loan companies, even calling for their websites to be banned on council owned computers.

Plymouth Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Cooperatives and Community Development, said: “This work is so very important – it directly affects the household finances of some of the city’s most cash-strapped people. These are households that have to take short-term loans to survive week by week and month by month. So to help them break free from such vicious cycles of debt is absolutely the right thing to do.

However, following this moral crusade we now learn that council tax arrears are driving more people to seek help than any other form of debt, according to the charity Citizens Advice. In the first three months of this year, the charity helped 27,000 people who had fallen behind with council tax bills, a 17% increase on the same period of 2013, and one in five of those reporting debt problems had an arrears issue.

So in fact, it is government that creates more debt problems than payday loan companies. So much so, we need a charity to handle the many thousands of cases. Moreover, councils are the number one employer of predatory, law breaking bailiffs.  From fee fraud through to unlawful entry, misrepresentation of powers and extortion, council employed private sector "enforcement agents" have spawned a cottage industry devoted to dealing clearing up this mess - and neither the police or councils have the remotest interest in addressing it (as I have discovered at great expense).

We are told that enforcement is only used as a "last resort" but we are only in May and already I have received my summons, where I will doubtlessly be joining thousands of others in my locality alone. Meanwhile councils are profiteering from these summons's, with each summons carrying a charge of £85 when the law only provides for "reasonable costs". The are waging a covert war against the people, netting millions from this scam.

We are told that councils need a "proactive approach to the enforcement of council tax to ease the financial burden on taxpayers, while protecting revenue for vital public services on which vulnerable people depend".

I found one of Plymouth's "vulnerable people" to confirm this. Plymouth Chief Executive Tracey Lee will only earn £150,000 this year, and is forced by circumstance to earn £20,000 less than her predecessor. Obviously the downward pressure on wages also extends to our CEOcracy.

Since I have a court fine of over £1300 to cover last years council tax dispute, I think I may resort to a pay-day loan to stave off enforcement this year. Good job this isn't a council owned computer huh? 

UPDATE: South Gloucestershire Council charges £85 for £0.09p Council Tax arrears.  I hope will point this out to councils the next time these self-righteous people grind their axe.

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