To Archive List PageIt's Xmas, it's a time of good will to all men (and women).
   Well, that's the theory of it.
But apparently not in the Stockport area.

Press Release

Stockport Council Stole My Mother's Christmas

December 2010 : Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council sent a widow in her 90s a council tax bill for £1,500 just two weeks before Christmas.

The son of the lady who received this shock, told Garbagegate: "Following the death of my artist father in January 2009, the council's finance department told my mother that the house which my father had used as a studio and library was not liable for council tax because it had become unoccupied.

"Come December 2010, [probably as a result of the Brown Slump caused by 13 years of Labour's reckless spending] there was a U-turn and the house suddenly became a ‘second home'. Without warning, my mother got a demand for more than 2 months' state pension with no time to pay [2 days' pay for the head of the finance dept., which is probably why he doesn't think it's a big deal], and the council wants £700 more in January.

"While people have a legal obligation to pay C Tax, the council has a duty not to blunder about, making contradictory decisions. It also has a duty to issue bills at the proper time and give people a chance to budget their payments.

"We don't know the reason for the U-turn – there has been no reply to a request for an explanation. In the meantime, my mother felt that she had no option but to pay up. So money saved for Xmas presents for her grandchildren has gone to the council instead.

"The council says on its website that its top priority ‘is to ensure that excellent customer service is at the heart of the services provided'. That claim stands exposed as just pious humbug. I can only feel deep sympathy for other elderly people, especially those living alone, who received a similar ‘Christmas bonus' from their ‘caring' council.

"It is grossly unfair that someone should be thrown into a state of financial turmoil because a bungling council employee decides that he got a decision wrong and then compounds the abuse with an even worse decision.

"In these hard time, it seems that councils like Stockport have decided to take the easy option of frightening money out of old ladies instead of cutting waste and the wages of town hall officers paid more than the prime minister.

[It would appear that the boss of Stockport's finance department acquired his degree from the Kray Twins' School of Business, and residents of Stockport will, no doubt, be horrified to know that their Town Clerk is paid almost £200,000 per year!]

"I have raised the matter with our local MP, Mr. A. Stunell, who finds it ‘a puzzle'. We are waiting to hear what progress he has made with getting some sense, and some fair treatment, out of the council."

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Additional Information: My late father was the manager of the marketing studio at the Manchester Evening News until his retirement in 1985. He was an active member of the local arts community, and he exhibited his work at home and abroad, including regular offerings to exhibitions at Stockport Art Gallery.

My parents bought the property in question as a home for my father's parents. When they died, my father kept the house on as a studio and a library and, of course, paid local taxes on it.


•  Garbagegate's legal consultant decided that, even if the lady in question had defied the boss of the finance department and allowed herself to be dragged to court, the judge would still have granted her time to pay as any reasonable person would agree that Stockport council's business methods are so wrong at so many levels.

•  Worse, this episode proves that paying fancy wages doesn't necessarily buy quality staff.

•  If Stockport council can't see that they got things badly wrong, there's something seriously wrong with their collective moral compass.

Hattersby's Rule for local government officers:
"I start with an assumption that they are B.B.B. – Bad, Bungling or Both. I then wait to be surprised by being proved wrong. Stockport council's finance department has not surprised me.

A secret audit of internet use by council staff has found that they spend up to half of their day messing about instead of working. Facebook, eBay, gambling websites, BBC news; they all get much more attention than anything to do with the relevant council.

Just a thought, but could this explain why things are going so wrong at Stockport's finance department?

Additional reportage by Royston Hattersby, G.W.C.

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