A SINGLE mum was pursued by bailiffs – after she missed a £60 council tax payment.
Bailiffs acting on behalf of Havant Borough Council ended up demanding almost £650 from mum-of-two Vicky Parker, of Curlew Gardens, Cowplain.
The 33-year-old teaching assistant had missed one council tax payment in June.
Mrs Parker, who suffers from a serious bone disease and has recently undergone brain surgery, said: ‘It was awful. It started off when I went back to work and each month I had to send my pay slips to the council so they could assess how much council tax I needed to pay.
‘They would send a different amount every month which was confusing.
‘I was doing a bit of overtime trying to help myself and my children but what I earned I lost in council tax payments. The next month they asked for £60 and I couldn’t pay it.’
Mrs Parker says she received a letter from a bailiff requesting payment. But she claims a payment plan was never sent to her.
A second debt collection firm then got involved and requested £642 – her £60 debt plus bailiffs costs. That’s when Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery stepped in.
The Tory said he found the claim by the bailiff ‘plainly disproportionate.’
And he raised the issue in parliament, saying: ‘To many people that might not seem like a huge amount of money, but for my constituent it was completely insurmountable – she absolutely could not possibly pay that sort of money.’
Mrs Parker has now paid back the £60 to the council, but after Mr Hollingbery’s intervention hasn’t had to pay anything to the bailiffs.
Havant Borough Council refused to speak about an individual case, citing the Data Protection Act.
But in a statement Mike Ball, service manager at the council, defended the use of bailiffs.
He said: ‘The customer will always receive a number of communications from the council before bailiffs become involved, so there is ample opportunity to open up a dialogue.
‘The use of bailiffs to recover council tax debt is regulated and the council must first obtain a liability order from the magistrates court. If the bailiff does become involved it is important to make contact quickly and agree with the bailiff a payment arrangement.
‘Bailiff’s costs are covered by legislation but it is vital not to ignore communications from the bailiff as costs will escalate.’