We all know that councils are staffed by jumped-up jobs-worths. Okay, some of them must be nice people - but Alvin Wilkinson has yet to meet one.
Oh boy, he does have run-ins with the local bureaucrats in the fight to keep his store, Countdown, afloat in Hornsea, Yorkshire.
He spent last year trying to fight off the council’s intention to cover up his outside fruit & veg display to the point of invisibility, a fight which I featured extensively in this column.
Now it’s the business rates.
He pays by instalment, due on the first of the month. He was late by seven days thanks to poor cashflow so the council pounced. “I got a letter saying they were taking me to court and they wanted £2,500 now because I’ve lost the right to pay by instalments.”
He ignored the threat and kept on paying the instalments. The due process of law takes a while.
“Then it went to court and I had to pay £90 in costs,” he reports.
The council was obliged to take into consideration the amount he had continued paying off and so the demand came down to £1,500. He was told “pay this or we’ll send a lorry and clear you out”. But, get this, he was also offered the right to pay it in instalments of £320 a month, payable at any time during the month.
“Sensible?” he asks me. He rang them up and said: “Ain’t that what I was doing anyway?”
It’s still due at the first of the month, but Alvin is now paying them a lot later than the original seven days late since they kindly offered him that option. In fact, he is waiting till the bitter end of every month before paying up.