A COUNCIL has been slammed for “sending in the heavies” to a post office just days late in paying its business rates.

Thurrock Council was also branded “hypocritical” after it emerged the authority took the heavy-handed action, despite itself owing £245,000 to a South Ockendon-based building firm for work carried out last December.

Panchalingam Kirupaharan, the owner of the post office in Corringham Road, Stanford-leHope, was fivedays latepaying his monthly business rates to the authority.

Rather than being contacted by council staff about his late payment, the authority promptly sent in the bailiffs to the shock of staff.

They not only demanded payment, but said the post office had to pay £4,000 up front to cover its rates for the rest of the year.

Shilpa Patel, who works at the post office, said: “It wasasurprise to see someone come through the door to try to close us down, but we wouldn’t shut. I phoned the owner who spoke with the council and a resolution was reached. I don’t know if it was necessary to send the bailiffs and I hope it won’t happen again.”

Mr Kirupaharan called the council to settle his late bill over the phone after the visit from bailiffs, last Friday.

Shane Hebb, Tory ward councillor for Stanford West, launched a scathing attack on Thurrock Council and said its actions smacked of hypocrisy.

He said: “Undeniably, one would expect businesses to pay on time.

I’m on board with that, and have said so to the local post office.

“However, for this council to launch bailiffs on to our struggling small businesses, when it isn’t paying its own bills on time – 90 days on some occasions – it smacks of rank hypocrisy.

“This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. If someone pays late, you call them and ask if there has been a problem and ask what can be done to help the payment process speed up.

“You do not send the heavies round, demanding a £4,000 bulk payment, becauseasmall business is a few days late in paying.

“Labour has absolutely nailed its colours to the mast again.

“It campaigned on a platform of supporting small businesses and is now doing its best to prosecute small businesses.

“It is clear its commitments mean nothing.”

In a coup for the community post office, the bailiffs have since been pulled from the case and Thurrock Council will be speaking to the owners to explain expectations about payment deadlines and offer advice.

A council spokesman said: “Thurrock Council will not discuss detailed issues about individuals. However, this matter is now resolved.”