Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

MP slams 'draconian' debt threat

Joan Still
Pensioner Mrs Still's treatment over debt was described as 'draconian'

A council has been accused of intimidation after debt collectors threatened a pensioner with legal action over a bill for 17.50.

The partially-sighted 80-year-old, Joan Still, from Aberdeen had disputed the cost of a personal alarm she had already returned to the authority.

The case was raised by Aberdeen South Labour MP Anne Begg who said vulnerable people were being threatened.

The city council said it was discussing the matter with the debt collectors.

Mrs Still contacted her MP after a phone call from the council's debt collection agency, Scott and Co.

Receiving threatening letters and phone calls from debt collectors would be very distressing for anybody
Anne Begg
MP for Aberdeen South

She was in dispute with the authority about whether the bill should be paid, and had written two letters querying the cost. In another incident, a young man staying at the Royal Cornhill Hospital received letters demanding more than 600 for his care. His mother was also disputing the bills with the council.

Miss Begg said she was concerned that cases were turned over to the debt collection agency without checks to see if the matter was in dispute or if there were extenuating circumstances.

"For the council to set debt collectors on a partially-sighted 80-year-old for the paltry sum of 17.50, despite the fact that I was in the middle of corresponding with them about whether she should be paying at all, strikes me as draconian," she said.

"Receiving threatening letters and phone calls from debt collectors would be very distressing for anybody, never mind for some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

A spokesman for Aberdeen City Council said: "Procedures are in place to make sure those who owe money to the public purse are treated properly and fairly.

"We will be discussing with the company the cases raised by Anne Begg."

Print Sponsor


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific