I was surprised to hear Cllr. Paul Clapp complaining in the local paper because the District council fined him for non-payment of council tax. Part of his issue was that because he was only “three days late,” or “one day late” (depending on which version you read) and was summoned to court, they should have to pay his travel expenses to and from the court.
Now I’m not knocking Mr. Clapp for being late. It happens. We all get a bit skint once in a while, or have emergencies which use up our money, or have life throw a curve ball and get in the way (Mr. Clapp had to go into hospital.) There aren’t many people who haven’t had a red letter from one agency of another over the years. It’s not a big deal and it doesn’t reflect anything about his character.
Nevertheless, it was his fault. Blaming it on the council is dishonourable, in my view. He had numerous options; he could have paid the money early, or he could have had somebody else pay it, or he could have set up a direct debit to cover it, or he could have phoned the council in advance to explain that he was going to be late and why. Or he could have just not paid and accepted the consequences of that fairly and equitably. The council are not mind-readers. They have lots of people to deal with. Cllr. Clapp may think he is a special case, but I’m sure all the other tax payers would take the view that they were every bit as important as he.
Instead, he didn’t pay and was then surprised when they sent him a letter saying that he had to pay the whole year because he’d lost his “monthly payments privilege” and that he was summoned to court in case he did not do so. But why surprised? This is the standard procedure. You can miss one payment deadline and get a warning. If you miss another payment deadline you then lose your right to pay monthly and have to pay the rest of the year – or be summoned to court. This is what happens to anybody else, so why would Paul Clapp think he was entitled to different treatment?
His argument is that once he had explained to them that he had been in hospital they should have cancelled the court appearance. Maybe, but they probably hear such things a lot and their response is probably all of the options that I already listed above (and some I haven’t thought of.)
The council have apparently refunded him the fees charged for the court appearance, AND re-instated his right to monthly payments. This seems pretty generous, given that he was basically in the wrong, albeit with a reasonable excuse. Cllr Clapp seems to think that he was entitled to special treatment because he was a councillor. He didn’t precisely say that – but he was fairly demanding in his response to the newspaper article.
I have no problem with him paying late. As I said: it happens. I have no problem with much of what occurred. Times are hard, people get sick, it’s understandable. But demanding that the council pay for his journey to and from court seems a step too far. And what really gets my goat is his manner – as though he has been wronged when in fact it is he who has broken the rules and it is he who seems to expect Special Treatment. Maybe Madonna, or Elton John, or Barack Obama could get away with going red in the face and demanding: “Do you know who I am?” But I’m not sure Paul Clapp can.
Lots of people find it hard to pay their bills for one reason or another and from time to time. I know I have. I’m sure you have also, dear reader. But most people don’t then try and blame it on somebody else. Most people don’t make strident demands in their local paper which amount – essentially – to the taxpayers paying for his travel (all the money the District Council have is taxpayer’s money. They have none of their own.) Most people just say: “Oops, sorry!” and pay up when they can.