Tuesday, 22 May 2018

OAP hounded for tax 'debt'

A PENSIONER has been bombarded with letters demanding a council tax payment for four years — even though he doesn’t owe the money

A PENSIONER has been bombarded with letters demanding a council tax payment for four years — even though he doesn’t owe the money.

Czeslaw Kozakiewicz, 85, has even been threatened with imprisonment as South Oxfordshire District Council can’t trace the £170 he paid in cash in December 2008.

Mr Kozakiewicz and his second wife, Jadwiga, 65, have lived in their detached house in Checkendon for more than 30 years.

He first realised something had gone wrong when he received a letter from the council in September 2009 asking him to take proof of his payment to the village post office, where he had made it nine months previously. At the post office he was told not to worry as he still had the receipt which would prove his innocence.

However, the council continued to send him letters demanding the cash. In December 2011, he received one stating that if the money or an offer of payment was not made within 14 days he would face a “serious risk of imprisonment up to three months”.

Mr Kozakiewicz’s daughter Teresa Page called the council’s treatment of her father “appalling”. She and her husband Chris went to the council’s offices to show officials the receipt but it made no difference.

The Pages’ daughter Marie contacted the Post Office but was told it couldn’t track the payment.

Mrs Page, of Crisp Road, Henley, said: “They keep sending these letters which concern us all. Threatening to send the bailiffs round and put him in prison if he doesn’t pay causes a lot of stress. What we’re saying is this is between the council and the Post Office and is not my poor dad’s fault.”

Mr Page, a geophysicist, wrote to the council asking for the demand letters to stop and for a letter of apology to be sent to her father. The reply stated that the council “would not be pursuing this matter”.

Mrs Page said: “We all breathed a sigh of relief and thought ‘thank goodness, we have got there’.

However, when Mr and Mrs Kozakiewicz received their council tax statement for 2013/14 in March it stated they were in arrears of £170. Mrs Page fears the threatening letters will start again.

She said: “I feel it will only be a matter of time before they start threatening the bailiffs and court again.

“I am not phoning them again because we are sick of phoning them, writing to them and getting nowhere.

“There is no care or thought about my father. They make the right noises but then their actions prove they have taken no notice.” She said her father was not well and her stepmother was naturally anxious and the letters had caused the couple unnecessary stress.

Mrs Page, who has ME, said: “My husband said, ‘shall we just pay it as it would be cheaper than a solicitor’ and I said, ‘no way, we are not paying it again for my father’s sake and for other older people who are treated like this’.

“This is driving me mad. Every day I am battling with fatigue and every time I go to see my father he has got the council worrying him.” Mr Kozakiewicz, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and takes medication for a heart complaint, said: “It makes your blood boil. I don’t understand how this has happened. I have worked hard and saved hard all my life. They just care about money.”

He moved from Poland to England with his mother in 1947 and has lived in Checkendon for more than 50 years. He worked as a forester until he was almost 75.

A council spokesman said: “Although the council wasn’t pursuing it, an administrative error meant the historic charge of £170 wasn’t cleared from the customer’s account as it should have been. “We have contacted our finance partners to request that it be removed now and we apologise for any concern caused.

“We work hard to maximise council tax collections and our efforts have resulted in continuous improvement and record collections rates, which this year hit almost 99 per cent.”

Mr Vaughan is up to date with his council tax payments.

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