Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

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bmwboy
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#1 Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by bmwboy » 31 Mar 2016 22:57

Hi all,

Sorry if this is the wrong section as I am in complaint stage with the council however its about Bristow And Sutor!

Last month I made a post regarding Cheshire county council sending Bristow and Sutor to the door, for non payment of previous council tax from some years ago and the direct earnings attachment they have on me. The basic post from last month was:
Low Income household (2 adults 1 child aged 2, 1 adult working part time)
Direct earnings attachment of £110 per month on £700 a month wage#
3 liability orders in my name and some in partners
Demanding we also pay current council tax
For months before the earnings attachment I was clearing the debt with small amounts each week.
Balifs at the door

I took the advice of forum members visited the council offices and put together a complaint which was:
I would like to make a formal complaint of the way Cheshire East Council have handled my council tax arrears and the choice of enforcement visits to my property and balifs with letters of intentions to size and control my goods/property. I did come into the Cheshire East Council offices last year to discuss my financial situation and was paying "token amounts to clear the 3 liability orders you have on myself and partner

I currently have a partner and a small child. I am the sole income provider for work and i work part time with a net income of £700 and we are in receipt of housing benefit and working tax credit. I currently have a direct earnings attachment form Cheshire East Council to pay back outstanding balances which is a large deduction on such small earnings. I was told that the direct earnings attachment would continue until all debt was cleared but only one earnings attachment could be done at any time. There was no discussion of my other debts being passed onto enforcement stage.

With Cheshire East Council knowing my income, surely it would be outlandish to try and recover further debt, knowing my financial situation. Recently we have enforcement visits from Bristow and Sutor who come across are very threatening and often will try to push the front door, or unbolt the back gate and come into the garden. I often can see them looking for my car, in order to remove it. I feel threatened and intermediated when they shout through the letter box, when we have no legal obligation to speak with them.

After speaking with Citizens advice, I would like to ask Cheshire East council to stop proceedings with Bristow and Sutor and let the earnings attachment pay of the reaming debts. Financially we are in no position to pay any more and the nature of how Bristow and Sutor frightens my partner and children.

I look forward to a reply.
Kind Regards
Later that week I also get another letter from Cheshire east stating they would apply another direct earnings attachment, in which I sent another complaint.

I would like to make a formal complaint regarding two attachment of earnings orders been served regarding your account numbers

70164313

70812390

My complaint proceeds on why Cheshire East Council would serve two direct of earnings when you currently already have a current direct earnings attachment in place. I recently visited Cheshire East Council to discuss my situation as a low income household. Before the direct earnings attachment I was paying money off the debts i owe for past council tax and slowly paying off this debt.

In the last few months Cheshire County Council applied 1 direct earnings attachment as well as the department for work and pensions, this results in over £111 PCM of a total of £700 PCM earnings, further earnings attachments would force me into having to leave work and sign on.


I request an appointment with a senior member of Cheshire East Council to discuss my circumstances.
2 weeks later I get the reply from the head of complaints.

When we where in private accommodation we where moved around sometimes every 4 months due to landlords selling or having a baby, but yet we have been billed for 1 year at a time for some places we had been in only for months. This is not an excuse I just want someone to understand the reasons why.
i refer to your emails dated 1 March 2016 and 13 March 2016, regarding Council Tax, which have been logged as a stage one complaint in the Council’s complaints procedure.


I would advise that you have currently have arrears on the following accounts:

71160748 mr and miss 2015/16 £572.78 plus Bristow & Sutors fees of £75.00

HOUSE 2

71047255 mr and miss 2014/15 £288.96

2015/16 £256.22 plus Bristow & Sutors fees of £75.00

70812390 MR AND MISS 2014/15 £371.91 Attachment of Earnings Order

HOUSE 1

70533029 Mr .... 2013/14 £210.00 Plus Bristow & Sutors fees of £300.00

FLAT 3

66573981 Mr.... 2011/12 £98.24

FLAT3 2011/12 £204.67

2011/12 £170.14 Plus Bristow & Sutors fees of £310.00

70164313 MR.... 2011/12 £295.89 Attachment of Earnings Order

Flat 2, - NOT SURE WHY THIS IS INCLUDED, I STAYED WITH A FREIND AND IM LEFT THE BILL, FIRST IM HEARING OF THIS

I have reviewed your accounts and would advise as following:

Whilst you did contact us last year and make token payments towards your Council Tax, you were advised that recovery action could not be ceased in the absence of definite payment arrangements.

An Attachment of Earnings Order was initially made on 70812390 on 23 September 2015. I cannot see in our records that you were advised that the Attachment of Earnings Order would continue until all your arrears were cleared and at the time this Order was served, you already had arrears in the possession of Bristow & Sutor. The Council can also serve two attachments at a time

Due to the level of your arrears and the absence of payment arrangements, I consider that we were correct in using Enforcement Agents. I note your comments concerning Bristow & Sutor and asked them to answer these. Please find attached a copy of their response.

As Bristow & Sutor state, they are entitled to endeavour to make peaceable entry in to your property but I also note that you are refusing them access and their action so far, has not yielded payment

With regard to the two Attachments of Earnings Orders served on 7 March 2016, I have to advise that on 15 February 2016, we were advised by employer1 that they were unable to make any further deductions,


in respect of the Attachment of Earnings Order made on 23 September 2015 for account 70812390,
as you had transferred to employer2. We therefore served two orders on employer2.


As you had already submitted your complaint, we should have only re-served the Attachment of Earnings Order
on account 70812390 and not served a new one on account 70164313.
I have now sent a letter to employer2 advising them to discharge the Order on account 70164313.

Bristow & Sutor have been instructed to hold action and I note that you wish to make an appointment with Cheshire East Council to discuss your circumstances and if you contact myself on the telephone number shown below, within the next 28 days, such an appointment can be arranged.

If you disagree with the outcome of this investigation and wish the complaint to be considered for escalation within our complaints process, please contact our Customer

Relations Team within 28 days of the date of this letter. This can be done either in writing or by email using the following contact details:
If anyone could guide me as what to do, as I'm not disputing that I I need to pay and I always have, I just don't have the Income to pay more or I would. I want Cheshire East Council to understand my circumstances and take ownership of the facts of what I can and can't afford to pay.

Thanks for anyones time in advance.

Mark1960
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#2 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Mark1960 » 01 Apr 2016 06:34

If you have a car, it is at risk of being removed and sold.

If you don't have a car, you should continue to exercise your right of refusing entry to B&S. Eventually, these debts will be returned to the council, with all bailiff fees removed from them. You need to tell the council what you are doing and advise them to contact you when the debt is returned, so that you can arrange an affordable repayment plan with them.

I know its not nice having these men visit you but from what you are saying, there is little choice. Best not to open the door to them. Send a letter to them advising that you genuinely don't have the money to pay their demands, so have decided not to deal with them, which is your lawful right. State that permission to enter your home is refused and that any implied right of entry is also revoked.

In the meantime, ensure all doors are locked, speak to them through a window and if you can, put away what you can afford each week into a savings account-This will help you further on down the line.

If you own a car and would prefer to deal with B&S, you should write a letter to the recovery manager, asking for the opportunity to enter into an affordable repayment plan, as per guidelines from the DCLG. State what you can comfortably afford to pay each week/month.

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#3 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by monkeynuts » 01 Apr 2016 10:08

I am in Cheshire East and too have a complaint going to the LGO.

I am hasten to add this is not the first time the CEC have been fools in understanding how the EA work it seem they are oblivious to it and quite frankly do not care.
An awake populous is a bailiffs worst nightmare!

bmwboy
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#4 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by bmwboy » 01 Apr 2016 10:31

When you say the LGO I take it that means the Local Council Ombusdman?

After my complaint and in-goings and outgoings, all the information i have provided are they simply allowed to just miss the key points that i have raised? It feels l like the reply was just copied and pasted and purposely ignored my concerns?

Thanks for all the advice, i believe in my letter so fat that they have suspended "balif" action so far and i have 28 days to reply.

Mark1960
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#5 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Mark1960 » 01 Apr 2016 10:54

I Don't consider it to be unreasonable of CEC to have used bailiffs. They have complied with legislation and guidance. They also have a duty to collect outstanding taxes.

You Can complain that B&S are making unreasonable demands, but not that bailiffs are being used. You can also question why a second AOE was not implemented. Bear in mind though that only a maximum of 2 AOE's can be in place at any one time.

I Don't think that you will succeed in getting B&S removed from the situation. You Have 2 choices-Either negotiate an affordable payment plan with B&S or sit it out until the debt is returned to the council

bmwboy
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#6 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by bmwboy » 01 Apr 2016 11:25

Mark1960 wrote:I Don't consider it to be unreasonable of CEC to have used bailiffs. They have complied with legislation and guidance. They also have a duty to collect outstanding taxes.

You Can complain that B&S are making unreasonable demands, but not that bailiffs are being used. You can also question why a second AOE was not implemented. Bear in mind though that only a maximum of 2 AOE's can be in place at any one time.

I Don't think that you will succeed in getting B&S removed from the situation. You Have 2 choices-Either negotiate an affordable payment plan with B&S or sit it out until the debt is returned to the council
Thanks for your imput.

I am interested to know why believe the council have acted accordingly when
  • I have contacted them 2 years prior to enforcement and was paying small token amounts to clear the debt
    They have my income/expenditure
    they have a direct earnings attachment this is 20% of my income
    And i have no intention of dealing with Bristow and Sutor
    I never disputed 90% of the amount owned
If a second attachment of earnings was implied i would have to stop working, it be better off not working.

Mark1960
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#7 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Mark1960 » 01 Apr 2016 11:46

Once a council obtain a LO, they are able to use other enforcement methods available to them, if they choose to do so. They are not obliged to set up payment plans with you. I Suspect that one may have been set up initially with you making token payments. This would not have been allowed to go on indefinitely and the council look like they've decided to try bailiffs to see if they can get the arrears cleared any quicker. They are legally entitled to do this.

I have just looked over your thread on CAG. You have been advised that you should not be paying 20% on your AOE. This is correct, it should be around 5%. I Notice also that you have a low value car. Given the costs involved in selling it, the priority for the compliance fees to be paid first and the rock bottom price the car would fetch at auction, it is debatable whether it would be lawful to remove it, or if B&S would want to remove it. This can't be guaranteed though and it certainly wouldn't stop them clamping it to try to force you to pay.

A second attachment won't help much because there are 3 accounts with bailiffs.

Use the 28 days grace to consider your options. Don't count on the debt being recalled though, I would be amazed if it was

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Schedule 12
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#8 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Schedule 12 » 01 Apr 2016 21:49

If a stage 1 complaint is ignored, then you can skip everything else and recover your losses in the small claims track.

Mark1960 isn't as aggressive as me when dealing with obfuscous councils. Collate up what you want the council to do to solve your complaint, cost it all up, then execute a claim on a Form N1.

This article gives a summary of the procedure for bringing a claim in the small claims court.

The alternative is carry on writing letters ad-nauseum.
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Author: dealingwithbailiffs.co.uk

bmwboy
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#9 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by bmwboy » 01 Apr 2016 22:24

jasonDWB wrote:If a stage 1 complaint is ignored, then you can skip everything else and recover your losses in the small claims track.

Mark1960 isn't as aggressive as me when dealing with obfuscous councils. Collate up what you want the council to do to solve your complaint, cost it all up, then execute a claim on a Form N1.

This article gives a summary of the procedure for bringing a claim in the small claims court.

The alternative is carry on writing letters ad-nauseum.
Hi Jason,

Thanks for your input, Do in your experience do Councils do everything in there power to avoid re-taking the debt back from Balifs. How long does it take for a balif to send the debt back to the council ?

can you then offer something to them when this happens?

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#10 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Schedule 12 » 02 Apr 2016 07:55

The council will always dissociate itself from its liabilities for its errant bailiffs.

If the bailiff is not successful in recovering the debt, they usually have to return it to town hall administration within three months, or they can ask for more time, usually six months. The bailiffs fees fall.away.
Run this Checklist. If no joy, then we'll fix it
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Mark1960
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#11 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Mark1960 » 02 Apr 2016 08:14

Councils NEVER take debts back from bailiffs unless there has been errors on their part in sending the debt out in the first place, or there has been serious wrongdoing on the part of the bailiff.

If you choose to sit it out, you need to send the letter that I suggested, refusing permission to enter and revoking all implied right of entry. The only thing you then have to worry about is your car. I would personally hide it a good 5 minutes walk away from your home, preferably on a friends drive, as it can't be touched there.

The visits would probably stop pretty quickly, there would then be a drawn out process of letters being sent by B&S, culminating in threats of being sent to prison. In your case, it would be illegal to jail you for this debt so the threat would be pretty empty.

Councils have an obligation to their agents to allow them the chance of recovering the debt and obviously the agent in this case has now gone to considerable expense-The council can't simply tell them that the debt is being taken back and they won't be getting paid for the work they have done.

It will usually take between 3 & 6 months for a debt to be returned. You need to contact the council now, as I told you in post #2 and tell them to contact you when the debt is returned. This further ring fences you from committal proceedings as you are placing it in writing that you are offering to repay the debt.

Do not even consider claiming losses in court. Firstly, there are no losses and secondly, your claim would be argued as having no reasonable chance of success. It would likely be struck out before a hearing, at which point, you would probably receive an order from the judge to pay the other parties legal costs.

Court claims should be a very last resort and parties should be seen to be making efforts to resolve the issue prior to instigating proceedings. It is not asking a lot to expect a debtor to exhaust the councils complaints procedure, prior to making a claim. In your case though, you really don't have any claim.

Finally, you need to contact the council and find out what is going on with your AOE. Earnings up to £740 should have deductions made at 5%. If you have been paying more, there is an argument that, that money should have gone to one of the other debts and therefore, enforcement action shouldn't have been instigated. You then need to ask for one of the other debts to be put on a second AOE. I know you want to pay these debts off one at a time-We'd all like to do that with our debts. Unfortunately, the law says that 2 AOE's may be taken out. Even with both of these payments, your income will still be way above the poverty threshold.

bmwboy
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#12 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by bmwboy » 02 Apr 2016 11:17

Thanks for the detailed and informative response and I will follow your steps and send Bristow and Sutor a letter of denial of access.

I have looked a payslip and I do have two AOE but one is from HMRC for an old crisisloan which is about 5 years old.

Can the council apply another earnings meaning I would have 3

2 from cheshire east
1 from HMRC

Or is it two total regardless.

Also my car is needed as we have a small child and a baby and we are required to do hospital trips and I also work 30 miles away. Could I not argue that Bristow and Sutor trying to take my car would be detrimental ?

Thanks again for all comments and reply.

Mark1960
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#13 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Mark1960 » 02 Apr 2016 12:46

You have to understand that this is a debt owed to the Government-A priority debt. They don't care if your car is needed and will argue that you should use public transport or taxis.

It is possible for another AOE to be added but not compulsory on the councils part.

As a plus point, it reinforces the assumption that you are a young family who are clearly struggling with debt, with little spare cash at your disposal. Is it right to simply pass these debts onto enforcement agents, driving you further into a debt that was already proving unsustainable?

I would argue that it isn't right and no disrespect to B&S (who IMO have been the fairest of all enforcement agencies collecting council tax since April 2014) but this is a genuine case where you should resist enforcement and wait for the debt to be passed back. Quite what the council will do at this point, I do not know as there are not many options available to them.

If you are determined to continue to fight B&S fees, I will be happy to draft you a letter to send to the council if you like? Remember, even if your car was sold at auction, it would only make a tiny dent in the debt owed, so nothing much would change and at some point, these debts would end up back with the council in any case. A letter proposing repayments direct should go a long way to helping avoid further sanctions such as bankruptcy.

bmwboy
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#14 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by bmwboy » 06 Apr 2016 14:43

Hi all,

Quick update. Thanks to all the advice and letter written to me by Mark1960 I have managed to get Cheshire East Council to remove the debts from Btistow And Sutor and my Direct Earnings Attachment removed from my employer and will allow me to repay Cheshire East Direct!

I am ever grateful to all people on the forum. I think the council understood my circumstances and my willingness to sort my issues out and not hide.

Once again thanks all.






01270 68 66 17

Mark1960
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#15 Re: Cheshire East Council - Bristow and Sutor - Stage 1 complaint ignored.

Post by Mark1960 » 06 Apr 2016 15:00

Excellent news. Yours was clearly a case where you were genuinely struggling to keep up payments. I'm so glad we've been able to help.

Thanks for coming back to let us know and also for the PM.

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