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Court threat fury.

A Tyneside health charity was threatened with court action over a rates bill it had already paid.

Newcastle's Community Action on Health was summonsed for non-payment of business rates totalling pounds 600.

The organisation pays monthly via a bank standing order but following a mix-up over the account number, a summons was issued on the orders of the city council.

NCAH manager Nick Forbes, also a Newcastle councillor, said: "We were astonished to receive a summons.

"We checked and found that not only had we been paying on the same day each month and we were in credit by pounds 119.

"We challenged the summons and were told it had been generated by an automated service. We contacted the accounts department to explain they must have made a mistake and we had proof of payment.

"As yet, nobody has confirmed a mistake, or said we don't need to appear in court."

The NCAH, based in Sandyford, helps tackle inequalities in health, and Mr Forbes said: "We are a small charity and were concerned to get a threatening court summons, particularly as we pay so diligently."

Council officials say the mix-up happened because the account number for people paying business rates by standing order is changed each year.

In this case, the charity supplied the previous year's number for April. By May, the council had got the right number and payments for the next three months were recorded.

However, April still appeared outstanding. Two reminders were sent before the summons. The pounds 600 covered April plus the remainder of the year, normal procedure.

A council spokesman said: "As soon as NCAH contacted us and we realised what had happened we agreed to withdraw the summons and reinstate the instalment arrangements."

Mr Forbes says they have no record of any reminders from the council. He acknowledged they supplied the wrong account number for April. "The council's payment system doesn't make it easy and I wonder how many other groups are in the same boat," he said.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 21, 2006
Words:334
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