I’m worried about car tax and insurance changes

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LETTER OF THE DAY: HGV battle is won. Pity PCC didn’t tell us

Have your say

Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I keep a camper van on my drive because I only use it during the summer months. I do not tax or insure it for six months of the year. I’ve been told that I’ll soon have to pay insurance even if I’m not using the van, which seems to me to be outrageous. Is this true?

GH (internet)

A I don’t know what you’ve been told, but I can certainly confirm that in the early part of next year it’s the government’s intention that all motor vehicles must be insured continuously.

This new enforcement rule is being phased in from next spring to crack down on the two million motorists who cheat on their compulsory insurance obligations.

I don’t believe it will make the slightest difference to your road tax and insurance arrangements. All you need do for the six months you are not using the van is to declare a statutory off the road notice (SORN) to the DVLA. This will automatically exempt you from paying both tax and insurance. In short, as far as you are concerned it’ll be business as usual and you’ve nothing to worry about.

Q Do you know where I can buy good old-fashioned creosote to give my garden fence a protective once over? I know it’s been banned by the EU but it is ridiculous. I’ve been using it for years. Surely there must be somewhere where I can get enough just to do my small garden job.

PG (internet)

A Creosote is no longer available for domestic use, because its constituents were found to be hazardous to human health, posing a high cancer risk.

There are very good wood preservative substitutes on the market which can be obtained from most good home improvement stores like B&Q, Homebase, and Wickes. I’m sure after using one of them you’ll wonder why you hankered after the original.

Q I’m being rung persistently by collection agents for the MBNA bank because I defaulted on my card payments. I’ve made them a payment offer and sent them details of my weekly budget, but they simply refuse to listen to me, and just keep making my life hell. Does what they are doing constitute harassment?

WB (internet)

A Creditors are legally allowed to pursue you for outstanding debts. I emphasise the ‘legally’ because some forms of chasing up debtors can be, and frequently are, illegal.

Late night phone calls, vehicles with debt recovery markings, and ringing you at work, are all likely to be illegal and no-go areas. If the bank’s debt collecting activities are calculated to cause you alarm and distress, then harassment will certainly be in the frame. In the circumstances I suggest you make your way to the nearest CAB and seek their advice.

CAB client budgets are invariably accepted by the courts as kosher. Talk to an adviser about the problem and they’ll almost certainly offer to write to MBNA and help you negotiate a reasonable repayment schedule to get them off your back.