‘I was anxious, depressed and having panic attacks…’ – Car valeter fails to pay £6k council tax debt (and now he’s avoided being jailed)

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A valeter who has racked up a £6,188.31 council tax debt has narrowly avoided being jailed.

Geoffrey Wood, of Pennell Street, Bucknall, ran up the Stoke-on-Trent City Council debt between 2012 and 2017.

Council investigators prosecuted the defendant after claiming he had repeatedly cut ties with the authority and the citizen’s advice bureau (CAB).

Now magistrates have ordered him to pay off the debt within three years – at a rate of £45-a-week.

Prosecutor Sue Isherwood told North Staffordshire Justice Centre: “Mr Wood has extensive council tax arrears stemming back to 2012. We were concerned as we’ve had problems trying to contact Mr Wood. He did arrange contact with the CAB last month.”

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Wood told the court that there had been a mix-up with his mail after he moved house. He said ‘anxiety, depression, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts’ had made it impossible for him to sort out his finances.

He said: “None of my mail was getting forwarded onto me. One day I got a call from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and then I got in touch with the CAB. At that time I was unemployed.

“In August I got a new job and I was trying to get everything back on track. I did explain to the CAB what was happening, that the mail wasn’t getting forwarded to my new address.”

Asked what he thought about possibly being sent to prison, Wood added: “It has made me really scared and really nervous. That’s why I just want to get it sorted.”

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Magistrates handed Wood a 90-day prison sentence which will remain suspended until he pays off his debt.

Magistrate Adrian Robinson said: “You prioritised other debt, such as your rent. You made no attempts to get in touch with the local authority.”

They told Wood to pay back the cash at a rate of £45-a-week or £180-a-month – or risk being sent to prison.

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