Christian Heilmann

Why is the end of the year always utter sh*t?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005 at 10:28 am

I am on my first day of end of the year holiday now, and just went through all the mail, as I will be gone till the 3rd of January to visit my family and party with some friends over New Year’s in Munich. I was happy to have a fat, round 4 figure on my bank account which means I can spend something on my family – like taking the dog to the vet as father is too tight to pay “that much for a pooch” and mother is very concerned. Well, I was wrong. It seems the UK system cannot stand a person that lives on his own wage and never had an overdraft.

Now, first thing I get is an email from my landlord explaining me that he didn’t get any rent since August (damn, I’d like to be in a situation where I don’t realise £3.5k missing). I investigated in my bank (the big one with a B that just paid a ridiculous amount to one of their ex managers to resign) and had to learn that the standing order faxed by the estate agent didn’t get through. Silly me, I thought you go via an estate agent to make sure these things do work smoothly). Furthermore, they didn’t stop the standing order to my old landlady – which is why I thought all is fine. I now had to mediate between these two to sort out the payments – and add £700 out of own pocket to cover the difference.

The second thing was TV licensing bullying me with final notices and ominous “we can send operatives to check if you are not committing a crime” letters. I don’‘t own a TV - I haven’t for 10 years. I don’t have a TV card either. I had them around my old flat 3 times looking around for TV sets and send them off with a “and don’t bother coming back again”. Well, I called them this morning and they promised not to do so (although she hinted that there may be some more letters coming, as it is an automated system).

Last was Council Tax. I paid my installments every time I got a bill to pay them via the automated telephone system – which has the charm of fingernails on a blackboard. Well I got a final notice with a threat to get a court order. Five minutes into the conversation with the lady I was connected to after 10 minutes of waiting I got the nice information that getting the notice already means I paid too late, as the installment payments have to be paid on the first. Nothing on the bill or the automated system states that, I guess I need tea leaves to learn about these things.
Needless to say, I now have to pay £500 as I forfeited the right to pay in installments.

Council Tax also sends me the same letters and notices for all the ex-tennants here (one of them being my landlord and the other one moving to Hong Kong) and when I called them to stop this they explained that yes, I am registered as the only resident in my flat since the 16th of August but they didn’t get the letters back of the other tennants, and if it would be OK for me to please send them back with “person unknown at this address”. However, there will be some more coming. Excuse me? How can a system still send out letters when it also has definitive information that that person does not live there any longer? Is all this paper and glue where most of my >£1k council tax goes? I am now gone for a while, and I do not want to miss important mail just because my post box is full with letters that are not for me!

I work as a lead developer looking after the allocations, the quality of work, training and my own project deliveries. I work on one side of London and live on the other. I spend the time on the tube writing a book that will help a lot of developers not waste time with bad practices. I am not willing to waste my lunch time queueing up in a bank or the post office – I had 3 days overtime as it is. All I want is enjoy my holiday and spend some of the money I earned by working 11 hour days. Is that too much to ask?

Paperless office, e-government, my foot!

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