(Un)Happy Christmas wishes from TDC
It seems that the council have been up to their usual inelegant customer care ways again.
Thanet Star has, via a few different sources, heard tell of the council mailing out a lot of families in the run up to Christmas to say
by the way you've been owing us money and we've been letting that debt build up without saying anything. Here's a nice Christmas surprise of a massive bill.
Quite why any organisation that needs to collect money (Council tax and Rent in the case of Thanet District Council) from clients would not send out monthly account statements is beyond me but it seems that despite some pretty confusing changes in terms of benefit reductions (aka The Bedroom Tax), and other changes Thanet District have seen fit to not let people know that they need to start coughing up more money. Then as the most expensive time of year comes round they drop a bombshell on families.
One angry mum wrote to us and said:
I would like to know why they allow money owed to get to over £200 before sending out letters? and why their system doesn't flag an account that's going unpaid before it gets that high?
So many people I know, including myself, have received letters in the last few months saying that £200 plus is owed for the period blahblahblah and it needs to be paid by x date. I think it's disgusting that they can do that and worry so many people at this time of year. Many families are already struggling with bedroom tax and stuff, and then to get those letters saying the council want more is unfair, horrible and stressful!
When it comes to arrears brought on by the bedroom tax the council has promised to
...not to take legal action against tenants impacted by the [Bedroom Tax] policy for non-payment of their rent, unless they decline two offers of alternative accommodation. Of course they say nothing about the offers being reasonable or suitable but that's politics for you folks.
Green councillor Ian Driver tells that
In Thanet 610 households have lost on average £770 per year in Housing Benefits. which leaves vulnerable families hurting to the tune of just less than five hundred thousand pounds for not moving into smaller properties that don't exist. We might as well fine people for not praying to the Invisible Pink Unicorn or worshiping the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all the sense the Bedroom Tax makes for moving people on in Thanet.
The simple fact is that under-occupied properties are over-expensive to heat and I am pretty darn sure that a lot of families would like a more compact cheaper to heat living space if only someone would get on and build them. We've got some nice green farm land we could use. After all who needs to eat so long as no homes have empty rooms, right?
While it is clear that the council have not let the six hundred plus households know that the sudden and unwelcome choice this Christmas is not between presents for the children or living in a home the truth is that there is some hope this year. The best advice we have been able to find suggests that if you are one of the people suddenly finding yourself slapped with a request for a Christmas (un)bonus to contact the council and discuss your options.
These options include applying for help from the discretionary housing fund which you can ask to be backdated if you are eligible. If you are not eligible for a discretionary payment then the recommendation is that you arrange a schedule of payments that will slowly reduce the amount you owe if only by few pounds a week.
For further help you should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.