Today I received a phone call from Avon & Somerset Police in response to my fresh complaint about Bristow & Sutor. The plod in question (I didn't catch the name) was refreshingly bright for a plod, and surprisingly polite. But alas, to no avail. This year the plod have a whole new line of bullshit. Finally the plod have admitted that advance fee fraud is a criminal matter (and not a civil matter) and did not repeat that usual mantra. This year, the official line is that they cannot investigate without a ruling from the Local Government Ombudsman on a given case. This does not take account of the fact that the LGO have already made several rulings on "phantom visits" and so Avon & Somerset Police are effectively passing the buck and leaving it to the LGO to decide if a crime has taken place. An unusual precedent for the police to be farming their work out to quasi-NGO's.
Unfortunately, trying to get a plod to think past his conditioning is about as fruitful as swatting flies with a hammer. They have their official line and conveniently, it means they don't have to do anything apart from tick the "no action required" checkbox on their database to say that they have followed up on a complaint. They must be so proud of their efficiency.
But the fun doesn't stop there. Today I received a letter from South Gloucestershire Council from "Mrs Willaims". I have had prior dealings with this odious creature. She is most unpleasant, as indeed all council employees are. She asserts that Bristow & Sutor have in fact made prior visits to my property (of which, quelle surprise, there is no evidence whatsoever). She has consulted with them, and taken their word for it. I am supposed to accept on hearsay that they have visited my property. Not at any time prior to their "final warning" have their bailiffs made themselves apparent, hence why I was so surprised Bristow & Sutor were the designated bailiff company.
She also asserts that each visit was made by a certified bailiff. How am I to have confirmed this when I have never met an individual from Bristow & Sutor? Normally I would ask them for their full name and to see their ID, then check the internet register of certified bailiffs. I have not been able to confirm this as I have only a first name on which to go by.
Williams asserts that the lack of proper self-identification in no way invalidates the legality of the fees for the alleged visits. What she is saying is that the word of the bailiff company is sufficient for the council and they will uphold any claim they make without investigation or verification. But that is nothing we did not know. The underlying theme to all this is that the council and their criminal contractors view a visit as merely driving to the property, and leaving any communications is entirely optional. I can't say I blame the bailiffs for not doing so, since everything they post through my door is recorded as evidence.
South Gloucestershire Council are not interested as to whether the law has been followed (or even their own guidelines). Their only concern is that they get their money. So the next time someone tells you that paying your council tax is some sort of moral duty, remind them that councils take your money under threat of force, and are happy to break their own laws in order to get it.
My own experiences, in addition to the work of EUReferendum.com and dealingwithbailiffs.co.uk point to a national epidemic of fraud that neither the councils nor the police have any interest in putting a lid on. Naturally I will be writing a full and frank reply to Mrs Williams, which will be published here when I get near internet that works properly (thanks BT). I would try appealing to the creatures human side but given how it writes and who it works for, it's fair to assume it hasn't got one.
Last years dispute is still ongoing and this year I hold no greater hope of making a breakthrough, but I take some comfort in that bailiffs are now at least vaguely acknowledging the presence of a regulatory fee schedule on their hastily scribbled, fraudulent communications - and the Plod have at least dropped their "civil matter" mantra by passing the buck to the LGO. This is progress of sorts. But the police now rely on you giving up and going away. The LGO will only act when the council complaint process has been followed in full, and you can see where that gets you.
I have to hand it to SGC though. This year they have swatted up on the law. They're now getting quite devious about this because if they admit just one instance of malpractice then that opens the floodgates. Consequently I expect them to dangle the threat of prison over my head if I don't pay the fees this time. But I will have my day in court. And that will cost the state more than £42.50. Any attempt to clamp my car will be met the usual resistance.