Q. I have had innumerable problems with Cotswold District Council regarding my claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit. I am in credit on my council tax bill by about £1,000. The council claimed it had overpaid the benefits and recovered this automatically from amounts that were owed to me. But I won my appeal, so the council owes me the money.
I have phoned the council, but they denied that I am in credit with them. A council manager has now spoken to my husband, agreed that the account is now in credit, but refuses to make a payment. Instead, the council is taking the amount from arrears of council tax due from 2009. The council took us to court at that time and the court made an attachment of earnings order. According to benefits guidelines, as this is for a separate time period the repayment of this old debt cannot be taken from the benefit now owed to me. VC, Cirencester.
A. Cotswold District Council disputes your version of events, but says it "cannot provide specific details" to us, presumably for data protection reasons. The spokesman adds that it is "confident that all officers involved in this case have acted with professionalism". He adds that a magistrate's court cannot make an attachment of earnings order. Where a council tax liability is outstanding the council can apply to court for a liability order giving a council additional recovery powers, which include an attachment of earnings.
"It is the council's decision as to which recovery powers are most appropriate ... magistrates have no jurisdiction over which method of recovery we might use, the payment arrangements, or what happens regarding credits of council tax benefit." It says that it operates in accordance with a formal complaints procedure, but you have not exhausted either the internal procedure, nor taken the matter to the local government ombudsman (see http://www.lgo.org.uk/). We suggest you try these avenues of appeal.
Phones not for you ... and a man plus van
Q. I spoke to a 3 representative about taking on a contract for two iPhone 5s, costing £63 a month. I was assured there was good signal coverage in my area. When the phones arrived, we had no signal. The wifi works, but we are unable to make or receive calls or texts. I phoned customer services and was advised to wait 24 hours as there was probably a delay in transferring our phone numbers. We expecting them to begin working the next day, but they did not.
I phoned 3 again and it conducted tests on the two phones. We were assured there was no problem with the phones, or with mobile signal coverage. When I phoned again I was advised by technical support that engineering work on our local mast was taking place. I still do not have coverage. And I have now been told that the repairs could take another 28 days. We have had our phones for over a week without being able to use them. Surely 3 cannot keep us tied into a contract when they have failed to offer a good service? FR, High Peak, Derbyshire.
A. The phone company admits it has been having "a few service issues in the area where the customer lives". Its spokesman explains: "We've had one mast down... so this has led to poor coverage." Although 3 says this was a temporary problem that should now be resolved, it has agreed to cancel the contract and make a full refund. You are happy with this solution and have returned the two phones. When taking out a new contract it is worth using the Ofcom website (http://ask.ofcom.org.uk/help/telephone/mobilecoverage) to check the strength and reliability of signal coverage in your area.
Q. I paid in advance for a delivery service, using two different delivery companies, Anyvan and Shiply. But when I tried to book their services, all their drivers – I contacted at least seven – were booked for a week in advance. The two companies required me to pay a deposit before I could even search for a van. They took my money and now I cannot get the service. VB, London.
A. Enquiries to Shiply were not answered. Anyvan says the service you bought was for a driver to be booked on a "flexible" basis, but you instead sought a driver for the next day. It has issued you with a voucher for future use; we requested a refund, but it declined. We took the matter up with Barclays, which issued the card with which you paid. It has agreed to refund all the money.
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