Southwark Council and Royal Mail - a winning combination

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Tuesday 6 November 2007 9.50am
Grrr - I am SO cross. Before I left the UK I called Southwark Council to tell them that I was emigrating and that my flat would be empty, and was assured that all the details had been noted and that my council tax direct debits would be stopped. I asked at the time if they would need anything in writing, and was told they wouldn't, but that didn't sound right to me so I sent a letter before I left confirming that I was emigrating.

Imagine my surprise when they took the direct debit out of my account as usual at the beginning of the month.

So, I just called them, and they, apparently, have no record of my telephone call and have not received my letter, which I sent at the beginning of October.


Anyway, they asked me to send an email just confiirming I had left the country and that my flat is empty, and then said they would send me a refund by cheque. I said that wasn't very helpful as I am in New Zealand and I would much rather they credited my account with the refund. But, apparently, that's not their policy.

I explained, nicely, that it really wouldn't be very easy for me to deposit a cheque back into my account in the UK, and that as I have received no redirected mail whatsoever from the UK I'd really much prefer them to just put the money into my bank account. Their response was that maybe they could make the cheque out to someone else.

Why are they so useless?
Tuesday 6 November 2007 10.20am
Ah, I love first direct. They're giving me the money back. Now I just have to wait for the refund on the overpayment...
Tuesday 6 November 2007 1.31pm
Careful with this - you're only exempt from Council Tax on an empty flat for six months.
Tuesday 6 November 2007 3.21pm
My daughter has just been given a completion date ( nov.28 on a new house in kent..while she's decorating/sawing/scraping up the money for furniture she wont be moving in tikll february...when would she have to pay council tax?
Tuesday 6 November 2007 4.19pm
The Class C exemption - "empty and unfurnished" lasts for 6 months. You'd have to speak to the Council in more detail about what happens if the builders have already been claiming one during the time they've marketed the property, I'm not sure.

We moved within Southwark just over a year ago, to a new build, and haven't paid a penny yet. It's only me chasing them that has got them moving on putting us in a band - so she may not have to pay anything for ages, but beware that there'll be a lump sum demand down the line!
Tuesday 6 November 2007 5.40pm
For what it's worth, I have found the following works:

a) get a name in all conversations;
b) use recorded delivery in any written communication;
c) in case of disputes, establish the name, designation and address of the person's boss, and the name, designation and address of the boss's boss. Copy them, too, using recorded delivery on any communications. If you are feeling particularly vindictive, copy the leader of the council, or the local MP. It's about 90 minutes work.

This works like a dose of salts. If your boss thinks he or she is going to get a telling off from their boss, it's amazing how bureaucratic obstacles melt away.

You can get a refund straight to your account under the direct debit guarantee scheme.

Talk directly to them. The onus is on the council to prove that the debit was correctly made. They have no business putting you to the inconvenience of presenting a cheque. The refund should be applied straight to your account.

Good luck!
Tuesday 6 November 2007 6.08pm
Thats handy to know Beingjdc, I did not think about what band she'd be in...she went three weeks ago and there was not any internal walls!
Wednesday 7 November 2007 12.47am
For the period of time I once had two places overlapping I just ended up sending them a copy of my other council tax final account calculation to prove that I was not lying about my future moving-in date....
Wednesday 7 November 2007 10.46pm
That's jinxed it. They've decided we're Band F!

For a 2-bed flat in SE16 above a row of shops and ten minutes from the tube? I think not!
Monday 12 November 2007 11.32am
If it makes you feel any better I am in a similar boat. My flatmate moved out in July - I wrote to the council to ammend the details and also apply for a single persons discount. Imagine my surprise when I get a court summonds last week for failure to pay.

They insist they never recieved my letter, and then they said they sent me a reminder (which I never recieved due to the strike - and I am still waiting on it). I am now being told I am a criminal! I am off down the to the 1 stop shop again (third time in a week) to try and sort out their mess! (Luckily I have a paper trail about their lack of organization).

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