A CASH-strapped widow has slated the decision to drag her to court for not paying her council tax on time as a “complete waste of taxpayers’ cash.”
Cleaner Jeanette Everton, 53, was sent a summons because she regularly needs to pay her £97 bill a few days late, although she pays the full amount every month.
Although she is on the poverty line, when she appeared at Basildon Magistrates’ Court, Mrs Everton ended up being given an array of extra fines, including a £95 court fee even though she didn’t step inside a courtroom.
Instead Mrs Everton, of High Road, Vange, was seen outside the court by an official who dealt with her case within two minutes.
She said: “I was literally there for two minutes, even though I had to take the day off work.
“I don’t know who the man dealing with me was. He didn’t even tell me.
“He just said to me ‘I’ll deal with you here’. He then asked me how I was going to pay the rest of my council tax bill upfront, which was £670.
“I told him there’s no way I could do that. He then issued me with a £95 court fee, a £45 admin charge and £50 for failing to pay the balance of my bill!
“I wanted to see a judge and to explain the situation. Isn’t that the point of going to court?
“I was told ‘that’s not going to happen’.
“Why was I charged a court fee for sitting in a court corridor?”
Mrs Everton said she is still in exactly the same situation as before. She said: “This man didn’t seem to understand that I couldn’t pay and in the end I just walked out.
“I have no idea what the situation is now. I’m worse off and none the wiser.
“I told the man I can’t pay the money as I don’t have it.
“I’m not lying. I live alone. I don’t drink, smoke, have a mobile phone or even central heating.”
Mrs Everton, who works for Coryton Oil Refinery, earns £6.92 an hour and gets no state benefits.
Because she gets her £240 wage weekly she has to juggle her money, which means her council tax bill gets paid between two and five-days late.
She said: “I am an easy target because I actually do pay, albeit a bit late.
“They can’t get blood out of a stone.”
Phil Turner, councillor responsible for resources, said: “Firstly, we cannot comment on individual cases.
“However, Basildon Council offers a range of options to help residents pay, but the most effective and efficient way to pay is by Direct Debit.
“If you are liable for paying your council tax, then it is your social responsibility to pay in full and on time and the vast majority of our residents do just this, perfectly.
“Costs that are incurred due to late payments are passed on in order to minimise the cost incurred by other tax payers who pay on time and in full.
“If anyone fails to meet their responsibility to pay on time, our statutory duty means we will collect all the money due for the entire year and not just for the missed payment.
“Of course, on top of this they will also have to pay the cost of a court summons.
“We are here to help residents who can’t pay, not those who won’t pay. If a resident can’t pay, then they should get in contact with the council and our professional staff will gladly help them with their circumstances.”