A pensioner and her daughter have pledged to live in a tent near their house until they “get justice” for being evicted over a council tax bill dispute.
Marilyn Robinson-White, 63, and daughter, Sarah Robinson, are ‘still in shock’ at being locked out of their Kempston home last week.
She said: “We spent the first night sheltering under the trees before getting a tent.
“It is difficult in this weather, everything has been flooded and is muddy. We constantly have cold hands and wet feet, and damp clothes.”
Despite waking up with icicles hanging from the inside of their tent, Mrs Robinson-White, who has asthma, said: “We will stay here until we get justice.”
The legal dispute dates back to 2006 when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour and she became his full-time carer and Sarah, 41, moved home to help. She said at this point the household was exempt from paying council tax but due to a clerical error Bedford Borough Council continued to bill her.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is confident that Mrs Robinson-White has been charged correctly.” The following legal battle forced Mrs Robinson-White into bankruptcy and being evicted.
She said: “I lived in this house for 20 years. We never had a debt in our lives. When my husband was diagnosed we scaled down our expenses and planned financially for the future. I’ve been ruined over a clerical error.”
The pair are now hoping to get a bigger tent to continue living on allotment land which Mrs Robinson-White has tended for more than 12 years. It is on the route of a popular dog walk and neighbours are helping out with hot water and the use of a bathroom.
They are making the muddy conditions more bearable with pot plants and candle lanterns hanging in the trees, and remain remarkably calm. Even the family cats Smudge and Pebbles are bedding down in the tent.
Warming her hands over a small barbecue Mrs Robinson-White said: “We didn’t expect any of this. We’re still in shock but I won’t be bullied.”
‘Clerical error’ forced pensioneer to live in tent
A pensioner living in a tent near her former home blames a ‘clerical error’ for her eviction over an unpaid council tax bill.
Marilyn Robinson-White says she stopped paying council tax in 2006 when she became a full-time carer for her husband after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He died in 2011.
She said: “I was exempt from council tax as it was a disabled, vulnerable household. I repeatedly visited Borough Hall to correct errors but was told the forms were never processed.”
Mrs Robinson-White was faced with a £5,492 bill and says during court proceedings she obtained the forms she sent to the council under the Data Protection Act.
She added despite producing documents backing up her claim she was made bankrupt in October 2010. The ensuing legal battle has seen her legal costs soar to more than £50,000.
After a High Court hearing last week, she was evicted from her £200,000 home.
A Trustee in Bankruptcy had been appointed by the court to manage her financial affairs and to raise funds to settle the outstanding debts, and they had obtained the court order for possession of her property.
A Bedford Borough Council spokesman said: “There have been a number of court hearings in relation to this case and the court has overruled Mrs Robinson-White’s objections each time.”
He added the court confirmed Mrs Robinson-White was liable to pay £5,492 in Council Tax arrears.
He said: “On numerous occasions, the council has offered advice to Mrs Robinson-White throughout this process, but she had chosen not to accept the advice provided and this has led to the current circumstances.
“Housing officers are still trying to offer help and provide advice.”