Council hounded mum, 91, over form
November 24, 2009
TOWN hall bosses threatened a 91-year-old woman with court and a £1,000 fine for not completing a form even though her family had filled it in THREE times.
The letter from Salford council upset great-grandmother Catherine Chemney so much she needed medical treatment and went to live with her daughter for a week because she was ‘terrified’ police would arrest her at her home.
The council had asked Mrs Chemney, who lives in Irlam, to complete a form so they could up date their Electoral Register.
In a letter sent on November 8 the council says it has not received a response from Mrs Chemney despite two forms being ‘personally delivered’ and an inspector making two visits to her property in October.
It then warns: “You are required by law to provide the information previously requested. If you fail to reply, this could result in legal proceedings being instituted against you, the maximum penalty on conviction of which is a fine of £1,000.
“Please note the posting of this letter to your property has been recorded as evidence of the additional step we took to ensure that you hand an extra opportunity of complying with the law.”
It adds that by not having her name on the Register of Electors she will have difficultly getting credit and will not be able to open a bank account, obtain a loan to buy a car, arrange a mortgage, by goods on hire purchase, ‘for example mobile phones, and household furnishings’ or order items from a catalogue.
Mrs Chemney’s daughter, Bernadette Babington-Howells, of Bramhall, said: “My mother is fiercely independent but as she is 91 she does not answer the door to anyone unless she knows the caller personally. She would therefore not answer the door to council inspectors.
“Regarding the forms which had been delivered my brother completed the first one in on August 18th at 3.40pm via the council’s on-line facility. The council acknowledged receipt of it the same day.
“The second form was received in September – I filled that in and sent it back in the post.
“We got another form which I returned on October 18th and sent in the post. When my mother received the letter on the 8th of November I sent off another form this time registered post – and with a photocopy of the form I had filled in October.”
She added: “When my mother received the letter from the council she was in a state of shock. The tone of the letter has connotations of bullying and harassment. She was terrified that police would turn up on her door and arrest her and take her to prison and came to stay with me for a week.
“As a result of the letter she was so upset she went to see her doctor and was given medication to calm her nerves. She was already on medication for high blood pressure and now it has affected her so much she is having to wear a blood pressure monitor 24 hours a day.
“The council know I am responsible for all her financial business because they write to me at my address. They have all my details they could have phoned me. There is no excuse for this thoughtless letter being sent to a 91-year-old lady.
“Salford council can’t get away with treating an extremely elderly lady who pays her council tax with contempt. I want a letter of apology for my mother.”
Barbara Spicer, Salford City Council’s Chief Executive and Returning Officer said: “Legally, we are required to contact people for their details if they are not already registered on the electoral roll. Letters go out each year to people across the city in an attempt to help this process. They are not intended to cause anybody any concern.
“I am very sorry if, on this occasion, we have caused any distress or concern. I can confirm that we have received a complaint to which we will respond personally once we have the full picture.”