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Ali M-W
Mod


3558 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2007 :  23:00:14  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Paula, Sarah, Lisa and I have had a good, productive day. This post has just got to be just a start, because there's so much to say about it and to take in, and it's a case of what to do first - post the bare bones and then fill you all in properly, or to put together something more informative. Everyone's been so supportive and the messages are flooding in, so I think I owe it to you guys to at least offer something.

The HMRC meeting was an eye-opener. We'll elaborate soon, but the really interesting observations were these:

HMRC really haven't got a clue what's going on. They didn't fully comprehend how certain aspects of their policy (around maternity, so I daren't even try to explain what I don't pretend to understand - but no doubt Lisa, Paula or Sarah will very soon) affected people, and openly admitted that no-one had ever raised that question before!

They also had never apparently realised that what they thought they were communicating to us was being poorly explained and meant something completely different to laypeople who hadn't worked for fifteen years for HMRC!

Their so-called 'expert' on the Civil Partnership Act, David Woodhouse (I believe) was the only one of the seven who was, quite frankly, rather sour, totally failed to comprehend why people in same-sex relationships weren't ecstatic about being 'allowed' to be recognised as a couple and have their tax credit awards register an overpayment just because the date on which the CPA recognition of same-sex couples was applied happened to fall mid-way through a tax credit year. He tried to pass this off as treating same-sex couples 'equally', but it didn't wash. After Paula had put him straight, he contented himself by pulling contemptuous faces at everything we said until he mercifully had to leave to go to another appointment. Having left, the meeting suddenly became more harmonious and productive. His attitude was ambysmal and we are going to complain. We very pointedly thanked all his colleagues 'with a single exception'. I shudder that he 'leads' on the application of the Civil Partnership Act. He was a rather unsmiling individual with no soft edges.

His colleagues seemed to pick up his thinly-veiled hostility, because Chris (I haven't got my notes, can't remember her last name) apologised unreservedly for my declaration of being in a same-sex relationship causing notes everywhere in the system that this was a 'relationship breakdown', and agreed that it was unacceptable that having been up front about my sexuality, HMRC kept referring to my partner as 'he' or 'him' without even bothering to look.

When I looked Tracy Gale in the eye and said 'The Tax Credit system has been a fiasco, hasn't it?' she looked right back and said 'elements of it have been a fiasco, yes'. I think it's around that time that the building in London collapsed!!! Well, I very nearly did...

We covered as many questions as we could in the time, and we'll do justice to them all in a proper statement soon. Paula's got a really good understanding now, for her casework, of the distinction between discretion and the reasonableness case. I shall let Paula explain that one to you. The great thing was that it seems that we now have genuine respect and credibility from them (apart from David W.), and an ongoing collaborative, advisory role! We left them with our unasked questions and plenty of evidence as 'homework'.

Right, I'm going to post this before I lose it, and add to it with later posts!

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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2007 :  23:15:41  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Okay, after HMRC, with barely enough time for a photo or (for the smokers)a fag, we hot-footed it across the roadto see David Laws. We updated him on the Campaign, and asked him (as we did our Tory contacts - we had no supportive New Labour politicians to see, tho' we're being as cross-party as we can) to alert constituents to us and our cause, and pop links on MPs websites to us. Having with us, for that meeting (HMRC banned him!) Alistair Thompson, a Conservative councillor from Portsmouth, we had the ideal opportunity for some cross-party work. David Laws is going to table as neutral an EDM as possible, and do so collaboratively with a Tory MP and with whatever Labour MP we can dredge up. Unless anyone has a better idea, I would suggest Alan's MP, Dave Anderson (what's his constituency, please, Alan?) A truly cross-party EDM could really do well, and David's popping in our website link for good measure!

After that, we visited Mark Hoban and Paul Goodman (without checking my notes, I believe that's right), who are Conservative Shadow Treasury/Tax Credit-aware MPs, to make ourselves briefly known and start to develop some links. It was a fleeting visit but we're going to keep them informed and they are going to promote us (again, we suggested MP's websites and word of mouth to constituents).

I think Paula will need to give up her day job at this rate... More in a minute.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2007 :  23:31:31  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Next up was 10 Downing Street. That was rather surreal. It's more a PR, photoshoot, symbolic exercise than anything else, as we weren't invited in for a cup of tea and scones, nor asked by Tony 'Am I bovvered?' Imagine a sealed-off street, police, a drab building looking a lot smaller than I ever remember it, and the only professional photographers facing the other way! This is where I have to say Paula played it rather safe, and dutifully knocked on the door to hand in our Amnesty petition and comments, and Gordon Brown's bill for his overpaid salary (overpaid due to his incompetence managing tax credits, of course). The rest of us were secretly hoping Paula was going to do a moonie or command press attention by something unscheduled and impromtu. She cannot care about us, for she did nothing outrageous. We aren't in the National Evening News - (surely the loss of Paula's dignity would have been but a small price to pay?) - but we did get to speak to local radio stations - Rother FM and everything we could muster in and around Portsmouth!

The Portsmouth radio interviews I did throughout the day (if any of you heard them I don't want to know! I'm not a great thinker-on-my-feet...). The Rotherham interview Sarah did at Millbank studios, whilst Paula was contacting Kim Catcheside from BBC Radio 4, who is getting back to us.

I got home to see that a column about our trip is in the Portsmouth News, and there will be more when the photos and proper feedback from our day are shared with them.

It was a good day. We all gave of our best and having the support of all of you here is more motivating than I can put into words.

It certainly feels like we're making headway.

And with Underdog's court victory against all odds the day before, it seems that the worm is turning and becoming a Rattlesnake!

Edited by - Ali M-W on 12/06/2007 23:32:47
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2007 :  23:48:12  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
<<His attitude was ambysmal and we are going to complain.>>

That's my Girl!!

Lots and lots of complaints!!
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2007 :  23:55:08  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I forgot to say that HMRC are reporting to Dawn Primarolo and whilst they cannot implement waivers without government say-so, they seemed amenable to telling it how it is to her.

If she chooses not to listen, that's her look-out. As these issues inevitably come to light with the wider public, her actions and inactions will come under increasing scrutiny. The electorate are not stupid.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2007 :  23:59:58  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

I forgot to say that HMRC are reporting to Dawn Primarolo and whilst they cannot implement waivers without government say-so, they seemed amenable to telling it how it is to her.

If she chooses not to listen, that's her look-out. As these issues inevitably come to light with the wider public, her actions and inactions will come under increasing scrutiny. The electorate are not stupid.



Excellent news Ali, and once again WELL DONE!!
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  00:07:02  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
It was a real collective effort, and even those who couldn't make it to London contributed to our evidence and research, so thanks right back to you all.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  00:15:39  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

It was a real collective effort, and even those who couldn't make it to London contributed to our evidence and research, so thanks right back to you all.



Aye, Our Robert does us proud with his research!

Other members who take the trouble to post too have been an enormous help, perhaps without realising it.
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Robert
Admin



United Kingdom
829 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  00:21:11  Show Profile Send Robert a Private Message
Thanks for your kind comments, but i am sure anyone can find things, its just involves searching in the right places..or looking up comments in reports..initials ect..clues to Gov departments. that you dont hear about...and finding those hidden gems.


The truth is out there.. GO get it..


Edited by - Robert on 17/06/2007 19:37:10
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  00:22:10  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
And get it you do Bonny Lad!
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n/a
deleted



35 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  08:07:06  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Congratulation to all involved - great job, I'm sure good things will come of your efforts!

Very Well Done!

Underdog
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Sarah
Rank; Captain Gordon



247 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  13:01:09  Show Profile Send Sarah a Private Message
A couple of things Ali's not mentioned from the trip are:

1. Ali sounded great doing the radio interviews on a mobile in busy London locations - it's not easy but she made it sound so and is the only person critical of how she did.
2. Whilst it's been a really busy time on the run up to yesterday with all the preparation and yesterday was an extremely busy and tiring day - it was also lots of fun and really good to see each other instead of just emailing.

I would also like to reiterate Ali's comment that this was a real team effort and truly appreciate all the work and help in the background from our members that enabled us to achieve what we did yesterday.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  13:42:03  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks for your kind words - spontaneous interviewing is a bit out of my comfort zone, but it's hard to think on your feet as if you become too conscious of what you're trying to say, you can easily dry up and end up er- and um-ing. I'm used to Paula or Sarah doing these kinds of interviews as they're so articulate, but the stations involved wanted the local link, so it was a crash course! Something tells me we may be doing more of this, with more people (volunteers anyone??) in the future!

I agree with all Sarah says, and whilst we always enjoy an excuse to meet up, I do feel the face-to-face contact was really crucial with HMRC as they could see us as real people, rather than as National Insurance numbers. And I think, with one exception, they related to us just about as well as we could have expected as reasonable people (have to get that dreaded word in!)
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n/a
deleted



39 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  15:22:39  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
A very productive day, from which some very interesting information was gleaned.

The representatives from HMRC got a true feel from us for the human costs of tax credit overpayments - I don't think they're used to dealing with "real" human beings so it was great to get that across. Though on one level it's rather worrying, I think they were quite often genuinely surprised that their policy wasn't being put into place in practice, and hopefully they will make some progress on that and hopefully we can help them produce information that normal people can read and understand instead of the baffling tax-speak they've overloaded folk with before.

The maternity leave trap - I will post a separate thread on this so it doesnt get lost in the middle of another.

Huge congratulations, thanks and applause goes to Paula, Ali and Sarah for organising the day and lugging round files ten times as thick as mine.

Lisa

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n/a
deleted



240 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  17:01:37  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
heartfelt thanks for all you did for us you are brilliant!! spent most of the day thinking how you were getting on and hoping that building was no where near you.!! WELL DONE
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  18:35:00  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by rosie

heartfelt thanks for all you did for us you are brilliant!! spent most of the day thinking how you were getting on and hoping that building was no where near you.!! WELL DONE



I thought that they'd demolished that building - just to make a point
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 14/06/2007 :  08:02:34  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks for all that positive feedback, and whilst we did wonder - as soon as we heard the news - what folks at home would be thinking about the collapse of that building (ranging from concerns about our safety to wondering if there was something we hadn't been telling you guys), I can only say 'they' can't call THAT our fault!
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 14/06/2007 :  08:31:33  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I think it's also fair now to say that, after our successful London Tour (or 'gig', as Alan calls it), that chances are that HMRC officials (and MPs) will be looking in from time to time, but benignly, to see what 'customer' experiences actually are, and what they can learn from us. Not a definite but quite a possible. We may have different views on that, but I feel it can only be beneficial to our cause that all these complex issues and experiences (recurring themes as well as the bizarre and unique, like Chrisp's resident 'ghost' who is being chased for repayment)are known about and understood. Anonymity is still very possible - ask one of the really 'techy' people like Sammy or Underdog, or possibly Robert, how this can be done.
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auntieh
Rank; Really should become a politician



United Kingdom
625 Posts

Posted - 15/06/2007 :  21:18:07  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
Just wanted to say a big thank you to the visitors to London for giving up your time and energy to represent so many of us casualties, seen and unseen, the quiet and the more vocal!

Let's hope we see an end to this nonsense soon!

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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 17/06/2007 :  17:57:01  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks! It's going to be an ongoing dialogue, so if anyone has anything they want raised with HMRC, let me, Paula, Sarah or Lisa know, and we'll email them. The thing I'm really waiting to see is the Report HMRC are doing for dawn Primarolo, and what it states (as well as what they leave out?), but we shall see... The impression I got is that most of the officials wanted a safer, fairer and better system but were dependent on Ministers agreeing the necessary actions. I wonder if they'll say it as we all said it then (or appeared to), or tone it down for Dawn Primarolo's consumption? We shall see soon...
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 18/06/2007 :  13:41:37  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
It will be interesting to see if "The Report" does go to Dawn Primarolo. (Does she still have a job??)

And - if she is still there - after the surgery that she's had she won't be allowed to lift anything too heavy for quite a while.

Edited by - Alan the Geordie on 18/06/2007 13:44:26
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