Council tax mix-up lands man in court

Hendon resident Martin Clayton elected to appear in court to fight Sunderland City Council's council tax demands.
Hendon resident Martin Clayton elected to appear in court to fight Sunderland City Council's council tax demands.
0
Have your say

A MAN ended up in court after clashing with Sunderland Council over council tax.

Martin Clayton, 23, who was unemployed and renting a flat in Hendon, was told his council tax should be £48 a month, but this dropped to zero after he started receiving benefits.

But when he landed a job as a leaflet distributor and driver with Colliery Media, he was shocked to see it jump to £96.

The former film student, who is originally from Hartlepool, said he spent several weeks trying to sort out his bill and asked for the account to be put on hold while he reclaimed for benefits, as he was only working part-time.

But a court summons for non-payment landed the same day as a letter saying his benefit had been awarded.

Sunderland magistrates heard the 23-year-old had failed to contact the council on several occasions and it was left with “no alternative” but to issue a court summons.

Clayton told District Judge Roger Elsey: “When I phoned up to query why my previous bill was £48 a month, nobody could explain that.

“They told me I was not entitled to council tax or housing benefit.”

“I kept being told I would be sent a revised bill. Eventually I got sick and went into the council and asked for an application for council tax benefit.

“I received a letter saying I had been awarded council tax benefit the same day I got a summons.”

District Judge Elsey told Clayton to pay his council tax but as he had made attempts to sort out his outstanding bill, no order for court costs would be made.

Afterwards, Clayton, of Kensington House, said: “I’m happy to pay the council tax, it’s just the customer service I have received from them, general mis-communication between departments and not speaking to each other, and generally the farce of having to deal with them.”

A council spokesman said: “Mr Clayton failed to pay the agreed instalments and was given extra time to contact the council to resolve matters, but failed to do so, and therefore court action was taken.

“Mr Clayton has now agreed new repayment arrangements with the council.”