Leigh man claims 'council tax blunder ruined life'
6:10am Thursday 17th April 2014 in North West
A YOUNG man claims his life has been ruined after a debt he never owed reached more than £1,600.
Samuel Hulmes was pursued for a debt of around £350 of council tax after he moved out of a flat in Golborne where he had lived from January until April 2012.
The bailiffs’ fees had accumulated to more than £1,673.49 by January 2014.
Mr Hulmes claims that he lost his job at a recruitment agency, his house in Oldham and his girlfriend after the strain led him to suffer from anxiety, aggression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m not the same person I used to be,” said the 25-year-old.
“I had a good job and a house and now I have nothing. I’m on anti-depressants and my family say I’ve become more aggressive.”
Mr Hulmes moved back to Leigh just over a month ago and when signing up for housing benefit he was told that the supposed debt had been caused by a computer error and had been cleared.
He received a letter telling him that the council had paid the bailiffs’ fees of £85 and he no longer owed them anything.
Mr Hulmes, of Union Street, Leigh, said: “I’ve received no apology.
The way I have been treated isn’t just wrong it’s outrageous. It has ruined my life. I’ve tried everything to get it sorted but nothing has worked.
“The bill had escalated to more that £1,600 despite me telling them I didn’t owe anything.
“My work told me they had had enough in the end and let me go so I couldn’t pay my rent. I’ve worked hard all my life and I have nothing to show for it.”
Mr Hulmes claims that he rang the council on several occasions to explain that he didn’t owe anything but the problem wasn’t solved until February this year.
He logged an official complaint with the council in March but after seeking advice, the agency failed to return some of the letters he needs to prove the bailiffs visited him more than the two times the council claims they did.
Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director for customer services at Wigan Council, said: “We have apologised to Mr Hulmes for the administrative error. As soon as we were made aware of the issue we updated our records and the charges were removed. We have advised Mr Hulmes to contact us if he is still unhappy.” Mr Hulmes only received the letter on Tuesday after the council had been contacted by the Journal.
A spokesman for bailiffs Bristow and Sutor said: “We visited Mr Hulmes twice in just under a month. On the second occasion we spoke to someone who would not identify himself but did say that no money was owed.
“Afterwards we spoke to Wigan Council who checked their records, realised it had been a mistake and asked us to close the case.”
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