Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Benevolent State Comes To Puddlecote Inc

We're used to some arms of the state at Puddlecote Inc, but then we're a private business so are a ripe target for regulations, inspections, and intransigent bureaucracy - all chargeable, of course - plus taxes, and governments using our money to bribe voters.

But those who follow me on social media might have seen that the state visited today under a different guise; that of confiscating a citizen's car for non-payment of road tax.
Now, we're used to jumping through an incredible number of state hoops on a daily basis. In fact, increasingly it's just about all we do, with actually developing the business and creating employment taking up a minority of our time after having satisfied the never-ending new regulations being applied (we've yet to see a single one repealed, by the way, Dave, despite what you like to grandstand to your pals in Davos).

So, despite a fleet of 70 vehicles of our own, a tow-truck turning up was something of a novelty as we are on the ball or we're finished. Today we saw first-hand that others experience far more trouble complying.

For background, we'd noticed one of our neighbours' cars - a nicely-kept 2001 4WD - had been clamped and found out that the owner had died before her road tax was due in November. But, since she was in council accommodation we were sure they would be organising her affairs.

Apparently not.

Our Fleet Manager was incensed that the late woman's car was to be confiscated and crushed so went out to let them know that she was dead, backed up by a couple of the home's residents. Surely a death would call the dogs off until the situation could be sorted out?

It made no impression, they had their work sheet and it had to be towed unless the back penalties of £260 were paid. So our guy came back in and we immediately authorised payment from our company card to stave them off.

The car was left alone and the clamp removed, with the tow truck driver advising us to "get it SORNed quick, so we don't have to come back again". And this is where we came up against the other side of a state we're not used to dealing with in such circumstances - what a palaver!

Stupidly, we rang DVLA to explain to them that this vehicle was parked on private land but that the owner had died; that it was therefore quite obvious that this was eligible for a SORN, so could they note that on their records.

"Do you have the V5 document?", they asked. We replied no, and that we had paid to preserve the late resident's car and were making enquiries as to their next of kin. "Sorry, we can't do that then, because it would be an illegal submission.". Seriously.

So next call was to the council who housed her. "Sorry", they said, but an individual's affairs were up to them to organise. We pointed out that the car was parked in their private car park and that she was in their care when she died, but that cut no ice either. But did they have contact details for the next of kin? No, they couldn't give us those because the warden at the home is responsible for that. So we asked for his details and rang there instead.

The first response once our FM explained the situation was for the warden to fiercely deny that he had reported the vehicle. Strange first response, we thought, but our FM soldiered on. "Sorry", said the warden (we were starting to realise that the computer says no a lot for the public sector), "I can't give you contact details because of data protection".

So, as things stood, we'd paid out £260 to save a vehicle from destruction which should have been the job of someone paid by our taxes to care for her, but after an hour had got absolutely nowhere in trying to avoid the same thing re-occurring.

The warden assured us that he would contact the family and get them to give us a call. "Best I can do", he said.

Three hours later we did receive a call, and the daughter was gushing in gratitude for what we'd done. She thought that the car was safe because - get this - she'd been told by the Council that it was parked on private land so she wasn't required to do anything. Yes! One arm of the state was oblivious to the fact that another arm of the state had ordered that even if your vehicle has no engine and is parked in the middle of a privately-owned field, it still required SORN or else the DVLA will pinch it and crush the thing if need be.

It seems that - in the government's zeal to squeeze every last penny out of us citizens to pay for their ceaseless waste - they're even confusing their own public sector bodies with the avalanche of red tape. Fancy that!

The family are calling us tomorrow to organise something more permanent for the car and are extremely grateful that we stepped in to sort things out. But, as things stand, the state now has £260 in fines from a dead woman, caused by the incompetence of another branch of the state.

Where would we be without these oh-so-benevolent tax-funded folk, eh?


North Mill Avoncliff said...

Heh... a pal of mine died and his widow - exasperated at the chaotic paperwork changed the registration address to the crematorium

Bill said...

The worst of it is all the DVLA are interested in is a name they can charge. Matters not to them whether that person is alive or dead or is a legal person. As long as it has a name the DVLA will raise it's duties and penalties by taking a vehicle (that may not belong to the registered name) and crush it.
I've asked them how it is lawful for them to do this and all they say is they do not record the ownership details of any vehicle as they simply have a statutory duty to record keepers details for the purposes of raising revenue.
They obfuscate, lie avoid the question, make up their own and answer them again and in the end refuse to speak about 'the subject' any more.
The one thing I have discovered is they have a set of template replies they use to compile a response. One of the muppets sent me a response referring to a non existent notice!

As I'm sure you are aware when you contact the DVLA you are dealing with Crapita employees.

Kath Gillon said...

I got sent a bill for £0.00 by the council once, with covering letter saying if I did not pay they would take me to court!
I rang and enquired HOW I was going to pay £0.00, to be told and I kid you not.......
"well madam if you don't pay it will confuse our computer which will then issue court action" if that is not in the top 10 of wasted tax payers money I don't know what is. How the hell can I pay a bill for £0.00.

moonrakin said...

Agreed - "they" exist in a misbehavior v. consequence free zone. I think where stuff like the levels of piss taking are as epic as the leave / flextime / mileage scams at the EA that a bounty should be paid - preferably directly from the assets of those found to be taking the proverbial.

On another vehicly / clamping note - this is rather good with more swerves and turns than the Nurburgring and it's still running - wish I had the popcorn concession.

truckerlyn said...

Other pre-requisites are a total lack of common sense, any kind of compassion (unless you are extremely rich) and a VERY limited number of brain cells (if any at all)!

Jay said...

I was hoping you were going to say that a good solicitor was in the process of suing the pants off HMG on behalf of the beneficiaries of the dead woman's estate on the grounds of misappropriation of property whilst due process of law was underway.

Blad Tolstoy said...

It really is time for a revolution but we won't have one because people are too apathetic or so used to being told what to do they just accept it like a bunch of ninnies.
Guy Fawkes, where are you?

Lone Radical said...

Westminster has learned from The Third Reich and Soviet Union how to
restrict and regulate sections of society ,certain social groups and minority
Regulate one group then wait for any response from the majority,then move on to another group..
Pick on the Jews or Smokers ,the rest remain aloof,who cares
Pick on the Gypsies or Drinkers, so what.
Pick on the small business or self employed,hooray scream the masses.
Pick on the Unions or Churches,yippee yelp the glitterati.
Then pick on the rest.............who is listening ?
The difference in methods between Westminster and the aforementioned Tyrranies is stealth and pretty banners
In simple terms Wesminster and the EU will suffocate Britain and the culprits
wont even attend the funeral,they will have fled to choke others as apathetic as we are now.
Room with a view