Yes I had this experience a couple of years ago following a second summons. I know of one other who received a summons and had paid. I don't think she attended the court so may well have been pursued by bailiffs but she had by then left the area.
The Liability Order is issued by the magistrates at Camberwell Green not the council; they are so hand in glove with the council that it amounts to the same thing.
Going to the court is like playing dragons and dungeons, you don't discover the rules until you have been zapped. The summons refers to "relevant law" which is Council Tax (administration and enforcement) regulations 1992 [it’s on the web] Sections 30 to 34 are those relating to issue of summons, court appearance and issue of Liability Order - not that the court takes much notice of them.
If you want to get in front of the magistrate you have to refuse to talk to the council's officers outside court 4, definitely don't show them the summons. To defeat the claim you need proof of payment, for example council receipt, bank statements, cancelled cheque or correspondence from your bank that the sum has been transmitted. That the council hasn't received the money isn't relevant to section 34(6). Don't be surprised if the council doesn't bring any evidence and the magistrate adjourns the hearing for two months for them to find it. Even if the court adjourns the hearing they may well still issue a Liability Order unlawfully.
If you do talk to the council outside court 4 they will do everything they can to stop you putting your case to the magistrate. On our first visit they ‘adjourned’ the hearing for 2 months to ‘search for the payment’. The day before the new date they sent a letter stating that they had ‘withdrawn the summons'.
We later learned that this meant only that they had ‘suspended recovery action’ and a year later received another summons. At the second hearing I learned that this is their usual practice. The last time I went to the court the council’s revenue court officer with two thugs (security officers I assume) stood in front of the court room door blocking it saying “You can’t go in there” in spite of the fact that magistrates courts are open to the public.
I have since learned that if the council cannot find your payment on their own ‘suspense account’ they have no means of tracing it outside their walls.
If you complain to the court they say that the council have no authority to prevent you putting your case to the magistrates but the court refuses to take any action against the council or its agents.
Complaints to the council get you a load of platitudes, denials and statements of administrative error. If you are lucky you might get a bit of forgery thrown in.
The council may give compensation following a complaint, the Ombudsman has set tariffs. They should pay costs, including loss of earnings, but you may have difficulty getting costs out of them. After my first summons I finally took my claim for costs back to the court where the council sent a message via a court officer that they had already paid the costs - they hadn't. After further complaints I finally got a grudging letter with a £10 note which covered my costs.
Finally it is not Southwark Council who administer revenue but an agent, Liberata, who also support 18 other councils. Are they suffering too?
You can get information from Consumers Advice Bureau.
I had a threatening email from the council demanding money that I had yet not paid. There was a computer cock-up at their end in September when they sent new tax demand for a different person, before later correcting it with an amended version of my original one. It ended up with me getting (I thought) an additional month to pay the installment. So effectively there was a one-month gap in the Autumn and I should have been able to pay for month 9 during month 10 and then month 10 in month 11, rather than them splitting the 12 months payments into 10 pieces. (And why DO they insist on 10 and not 12 payments? Is this so that can hassle people earlier on, while the relevant year is still ongoing???)
Anyway, I complained about the tone of this email - sent to a work account as well - and had the following half-arsed reply:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding your Council Tax at the above referenced property. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.
I am sorry you are dissatisfied with the level of service you have received on this occasion. The purpose of this e-mail is to resolve the issues raised to your satisfaction.
Please note all complaints are taken very seriously, and the issue you have raised has been fully investigated as complaints reflect on our performance and the public’s perception of the service that we provide.
I can assure you that it is our aim to provide the most efficient and effective service possible to our taxpayers and it is never Southwark Council’s aim to cause any stress or inconvenience.
I have fully investigated your complaint and hereby write to inform you that although the statement "Failure to contact me will result in further recovery action being taken for which you will incur costs" was not meant to be aggresive or threatening it does fall short of the standard of communication set out by the council, therefore your complaint is partly upheld.
Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused.
I hope this clarifies the situation.
Thank you for raising this issue with the Council. I hope that you are satisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled and that you will be satisfied with this response. If you would like further detail supporting the response, then please contact me on 0207 525 0155 or email email@example.com. If you wish to escalate this matter, please contact CCU@southwark.gov.uk or telephone 020 7525 2209.
Southwark Revenues & Benefits Customer Service Team
Perhaps any concerns or complaints could be sent to that chap. I'm sure he'd be very happy to assist.