A WIGAN man has spoken of his distress after receiving a council tax letter addressed to his late mother-in-law.
Ian Clarke and his wife were warned they could face a court summons by Wigan Council if they did not start paying council tax arrears due from his dead relative.
However, the local authority has since withdrawn the threat of legal action and apologised for sending out the summons, saying the reduced back payments of £113.74 should be handled by solicitors.
Mr Clarke, 27, moved into a property on Ashby Road, Hawkley Hall, with his wife and her mother, Anne White, last year.
Mrs White moved into residential care soon after and Mr Clarke says the couple informed the council they would now pay the council tax fees as occupants.
Mr Clarke said that numerous attempts to take responsibility for the payments were rebuffed by the council and they believed the tax had been taken care of as the council took control of her finances when she went into permanent care.
He said: “Months after my mother-in-law died we received the letter saying that she owed about £1,000 in council tax mostly from the period she was in care.
“We informed the council again what had happened. Later we got a letter saying that we were now liable for those payments and if we didn’t start paying they would take us to court.
“Despite telling them several times around the time I moved in last year that we had became the main occupants of the house and that we would pay the council tax nothing happened.
“How many times do you have to tell someone something like that? And then we receive the letter after her death, you can imagine how distressing that was for my wife.
“We have a young family now. The only explanation about the timing is that they told us they’d only just updated their records. It is their mistake, they didn’t update their records. We’ve suffered because of that, it has been very upsetting and this is the final straw.”
The council admitted it had not acted on new information about when Mrs White had been taken into care with sufficient speed to prevent the court summons being dispatched to Mr and Mrs Clarke.
The town hall also said that as Mrs White had died outside the Wigan area it had not been formnally notified through the usual channels.
Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director of customer services, said: “Mrs Clarke did contact us earlier this year to explain that Mrs White had been admitted to a nursing home and she asked for the council tax to be put into her name.
“We sent her a letter to confirm this had been done and to remind her that as she and Mr Clarke were now residing in the house they would then be responsible for paying council tax. We also reminded her that a large balance remained on her mother’s account that needed to be paid.
“We were then given information that confirmed that her mother had actually been permanently admitted to the nursing home from an earlier date than we had been told by Mrs Clarke when she rang us earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, we did not act on this quickly and our summons went out in the meantime. We have since closed her mother’s account from the earlier date and Mrs Clarke and her husband have been sent a bill for the backdated period as they had been living in the house during that time. “The summons has now been withdrawn and the executors/solicitors must make arrangements to pay the reduced balance on Mrs White’s account.
“We have apologised to Mrs Clarke for the delay in acting on the new information we had and for not closing Mrs White’s account from the earlier date. Had we been made aware of the date of her permanent admission to the home at the time, and had we received notification of Mrs White’s passing at the time, we could have reduced the bill much earlier and sent a bill to Mr and Mrs Clarke much sooner.”