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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 28/06/2007 :  07:56:05  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Being a Tax Credit Casualty can be extremely demoralising, and I thought it might be good to reflect on what we’ve all achieved so far…

‘People’s Purple Pioneer’ Paula has organised this National Campaign from her spare bedroom (which has fortunately survived the recent floods), and drawn together, from across Britain, countless Tax Credit Casualties who would otherwise only have their own, and not a collective, voice. Without our purple-crested version of Che Guevara, the likes of you and I would be battling on, largely alone, with our disputes with the Tax Credit Office (aka HM Revenue and Customs) barely realising that we weren’t the only ones. Despair would have been a way of life for many, and those over-motorway bridges might have looked at times like the only way out. As I see it, anyway…

Collectively, we’ve become the only user support and campaign group of our kind in the country dedicated to the emotive, if deadly-dull, issue of tax credit overpayment recovery, and in a short space of time our standing and credibility has grown exponentially – thanks to all of you, all of US! We now have a real hope of getting this torturously unfair system properly reformed so that it becomes safer and fairer for all.

Paula (aka PJ) has created a website which, barely advertised, has already had over 43,000 hits, before the on-site counter blew itself up recently from the shock of it all. She is supporting hundreds of people at their wits end to not only dispute unfair overpayment recovery, but to actively complain about their mistreatment and oppression by this charlatan system. We now have hundreds of campaign activists lobbying their MPs, raising the campaign profile through their local media, actively recruiting members, and seeking explanations from HMRC and the government as to why the system, apparently ‘reformed’, remains so unjust.

Paula and ‘Sock-it-to-them’ Sammy have created this real-time forum, enabling Casualties across the UK – and some now living abroad - to close the geographical gap between us, and share our advice, experiences, angst and friendship. Thanks guys! This has really taken off (see Sammy’s thread for how well this specialist, freebie forum is actually doing), and has evolved from the Sammy, Alan and Ali Rant Club to the serious, dedicated, sometimes hard-hitting forum which you now see.

Meanwhile Paula’s original Tax Credit Overpayment Website’s gaining rave reviews from countless visitors, with all feedback so far incredibly positive. If the worst that anyone’s said about it – attached to a glowing compliment – is that the psychedelic colours made their eyes hurt, that’s got to be good. Thanks to ‘Latent Talents’ Lisa we’ve (I say ‘we’ve’ because it feels like ours) been nominated for a New Statesman Award, and the commendations flow in!

As you know, backed by everyone on the forum, and armed with your questions, Paula, Still-waters-run-deep Sarah, Lisa and I have recently taken our campaign to the Ivory Towers of Power. Armed only with our tongues and our collective bodyweights in ring-binders, which Paula valiantly lugged around London, we took HMRC to task for their failures in delivering a ‘service’ to us. As a direct result, not only does Paula now have the biggest biceps in Rotherham, but we are now seen as an articulate, credible user organisation with a key role to play in ongoing consultation!

Lisa opened HMRC’s eyes to the current injustices of HMRC’s treatment of women who have received Statutory Maternity Pay, and how their policy invariably creates an overpayment should mum return to work. Sarah compiled the most thorough meeting minutes I have ever seen, whilst Paula didn’t let a single injustice escape her keen grasp, taking one HMRC official to task for his heterosexist, discriminatory and generally dismissive attitude (his other six colleagues being far more receptive), which earned him one of Sarah’s excellent letters by means of complaint (reply still awaited).

Paula then handed in a petition – our petition with our comments – to number ten, having earlier had HMRC officials look us in the eyes and admit that ‘parts of’ the tax credit system were a fiasco, and that their use of discretion should reflect this, at least for the early years of tax credits. Although we have yet to see the content of HMRC’s report to Dawn Primarolo, HMRC verbally expressed sympathy for our (non-fraudulent) write-off position! Should the Primarolo report accurately and honestly reflect this, it is then down to her to listen or ignore, depending on her regard for her own reputation. So we are now in active communication with HMRC officials, and are being taken seriously.

Thanks to the Unknown Casualty, the campaign now has its own song, HMRC, with a unique video!

Alan (not from Hartlepool) the Articulate, Upper-paw Underdog, and Mrs G(rrrrr!) have now had their ‘overpayments’ written off, and we’re awaiting confirmation of another TCC-er’s overpayment being written off any day now. Despite no longer having HMRC breathing down their necks, they are still actively campaigning for justice for the rest of us! Alan has done especially well in bringing his New Labour MP Dave Anderson into the fold – a rare achievement…

David Laws, Shadow Lib Dem Work and Pensions Secretary, has been supporting us for some time, and was the first Minister to display our website link from his own site. He is being joined by a steady stream of MPs, mainly Lib Dem and Conservative (Labour MP’s generally maintaining that the tax credit system is working well, much as we are aiming for cross-party support, and maintaining our political independence) who support our aims. Increasingly our Casualty-friendly MPs are not only supporting us to fight our own cases, but are lobbying Dawn Primarolo to finally pluck her ostrich head out of the golden sand dunes of sunny Tax-Credits-Are-Wonderful Land.

‘Right, let’s GO get it’ Robert has carved his own role as TCC Researcher, inspiring everyone else to chip in with their own articles and reports, thanks to which we are drawing in new members all the time, linking in and out to other sites and forums (with thanks also due to Sammy and others), and raising the profile of the campaign.

Sammy has publicised our song, and whilst the government and HMRC are hell-bent on bankrupting our indomitable Sammy, he misses no trick in revealing how morally bankrupt THEY are. Using his not inconsiderable technological skills to spread the word, Sammy continues to highlight miscarriages of justice, and his kangaroo-court experiences are proof that court action is not the ‘last resort’ that Dawn Primarolo and HMRC publicly claim that it is.

Other members vigilantly highlight disability issues and other injustices, and we now have HMRC ‘converts’ to the cause, gradually growing to understand that we’re not the liars, cheats and fools some might ignorantly make us out to be – to serve their own ends and prop up this oppression. Attempts to help us may be clumsy and poorly judged at first, but with the will to help us, and a growing understanding of the issues which comes from taking the time to listen and get to know us, they can be influential allies from within the system, pressing their leaders for reform. Challenging the system they work with and for takes courage, as does whistleblowing, and we have to respect that.

Thanks to forum members, we now know that Lord Falconer has sold ‘debtor’ details to loan companies for profit, with other revelations and abuses filling these threads.

Sarah is days away from gaining Charitable status for us, allowing us to fundraise for the first time! She’s also been invaluable in researching legal issues (with others), exposing the full extent of HMRC’s unaccountability, and writing some poignant and remarkable letters (as have Paula, Alan and others). We have Sarah to thank for our MP letter template, keeping HMRC’s lack of public accountability on the political agenda.

Several Tax Credit Casualties have been interviewed by national magazines, local newspapers, and local radio. Any day now, we will make the Nationals, who have already approached one of our members for their bizarre story.

It’s taken us a year to get this far, which may seem slow progress, but is remarkable when you consider the barriers. Tax credits are the most complex, boring issue imaginable to get across. Being ‘in debt’ carries a massive social stigma, and left to their own devices, few people would ‘come out’. The whole tax credit experience grinds people into a state of demoralisation, alienation, apathy, depression and submission – hardly the qualities needed for taking on a heartless and powerful regime. Individuals who wanted to stand up for their rights were often daunted by the fact that huge organisations such as the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, Child Poverty Action Group, One Parent Families and Citizens Advice had produced report after report highlighting the abuses of the system, and were not being properly listened to by HMRC and the government. How could we, as lay people, succeed when huge, credible, strong organisations such as these were being ignored?

As you can see, it’s been a long, slow haul and every tiny bit of progress has come from the extraordinary efforts of individuals – from you, from us, and from our allies. This is why this forum, this campaign, and all of us affected by the tax credits fiasco need to step up this campaign into the National media spotlight. We have a massive cumulative knowledge and know from experience what it’s like when tax credits go wrong. We have the knowledge, confidence, strength and insights to advise the ‘experts’! That is why you, me, and all of us are going to get this sorted. And we all need each other to take this campaign to the next level.

Let’s now give this some thought, and let’s win ourselves the AMNESTY that we deserve. No more. No less.

Ali.

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240 Posts

Posted - 28/06/2007 :  17:58:25  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Ali thanks. Such an inspiration. At times I have been so low over this fiasco (we are stuck in the 2003 disaster!!)Yet PJ and the website inspired me to keep me going. I will support our campaign and am so grateful to every person that has taken the leap of faith and trusted you with our problems. Still yet to have answers to our own "complaints" however not as worried now. Cheers.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 28/06/2007 :  19:47:28  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by rosie

Ali thanks. Such an inspiration. At times I have been so low over this fiasco (we are stuck in the 2003 disaster!!)Yet PJ and the website inspired me to keep me going. I will support our campaign and am so grateful to every person that has taken the leap of faith and trusted you with our problems. Still yet to have answers to our own "complaints" however not as worried now. Cheers.



Thanks for you vote of confidence Rosie Just Carry on Complaining!

(maybe that could be the title of the film that Al's scripting about us? )
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Sarah
Rank; Captain Gordon



247 Posts

Posted - 29/06/2007 :  12:40:57  Show Profile Send Sarah a Private Message
Well said, Ali, but not much said about the sterling work you have done, your awesome letter writing abilities, etc.

You are right, we need to stick together. Alone we can become demoralised and the task is too daunting, but together we can support one another and break the work down to workable chunks.

Lets keep hanging on in there!
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 29/06/2007 :  12:52:30  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks for your kind words, Rosie - we're all in this together, and it's very much everyone's campaign. Alan's remark about the film arose from a lighthearted, post-flood catch up exchange amongst a few of us TCC 'veterans'the other day. Life has been so bizarre and the twists and turns of this rollercoaster experience sometimes evoke a wry smile, amongst all the aggro and misery that any fight with uncaring bureaucracy brings. A few of us started thinking about the future (assuming we're still here, natural disasters and life in general permitting, which you start to think about at my age - 46 - and with recent events). Although probably not the right 'thread' for this, yours truly ended up in a reverie about our Campaign succeeding and it capturing the public spirit so much in the process that somebody decided it might make a good comedy. In the time I've got to know Paula (who started all this), Sarah and (more recently), Lisa, and of course not forgetting Alan, Sammy, Robert et. al just through the net, the personalities and stories have been so - interesting, emotive, tragi-comic, ridiculous, inspiring, etc., etc. I found the idea of HMRC trying to chase a 'ghost' who has been deceased for some eight years totally weird. The kangaroo courts, the bungling bureaucracy, the David Woodhouses of this world (presented to us as a Civil Partnership Act 'expert', but attitudinally-challenged, shall we say)and all your, all our, stories here, seemed at times surreal. If the public enjoyed 'Calendar Girls', then they'd love us!!

For all my ramblings, however, I am not a writer, but there's a part of me that's been there since I was knee-high to a grasshopper that would have loved to have been able to write beyond the rants I indulge in here. The scriptwriting thing was said in jest, but sometimes good ideas are borne from throw-away remarks. If anyone does fancy waxing lyrical and being creative with the human-interest stories we share here, and if they feel inspired, I do think we could have a book, at least. I'll offer that idea here, in case someone feels the urge to run with it. If a few people submitted something about their case, humourous, tragi-comic, or whatever, and in whatever media they preferred, I do think we could not only be onto an attention-grabbing winner, but we could find another outlet for those negative emotions and experiences which this abusive system is responsible for...

So thanks Alan, because if anything comes of this, it will because you gave that daft and dormant idea exposure... I wouldn't have had the guts without you dropping me in it!
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 29/06/2007 :  13:24:22  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
<<So thanks Alan, because if anything comes of this, it will because you gave that daft and dormant idea exposure... I wouldn't have had the guts without you dropping me in it!>>

Any time Bonny Lass, you know me!

(46?? You're just a young sprog!)
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 30/06/2007 :  09:21:04  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Alan, you make me smile - we're all young, bonny sprogs as far as you're concerned! And Sarah, I've only just read your post - that's kind (as always - good for morale is our Sarah). Keep smiling, Rosie. Collectively we can look after ourselves and each other and get this war won.

Just to reiterate that we're not doing so badly (if in doubt please read above), and by telling our stories at least we can all see that we're far from alone. If anyone feels the inspiration to turn their problems to prose, and would like perhaps to think about a book, just shout! I'm sure that with a bit of inspiration and ingenuity it can be done.

What do they say about books, T-shirts and films? There are actually T-shirts in existence (thanks to Paula), and there might just come a time when they hit the production line...

Hey, I'm no entrepreneur, for if I was, I wouldn't be broke and stuck in a dead-end relationship with tax credits. But I'm sure that some of you 'out there' have some better ideas than mine, so let's hear them!

There must be lots more ways to get this show on the road.
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Robert
Admin



United Kingdom
829 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2007 :  14:02:19  Show Profile Send Robert a Private Message
Gordon needs your comments..


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I ask the new prime minister, is he now going to answer questions on, the appalling way Tax Credits has been administered. With one report, saying there will be an error rate at 60%…the adjudicator, and Ombudsman saying what a shambles it is. The HMRC computer system, a shambles from day one. With Dawn Primarolo now gone. It is about time this farce, was sorted. An amnesty to all non-fraudulent claims. An independent appeals process. Not funded by the HMRC, and not run by the HMRC.or anyone connected with it. You say you want reform. This is the time to act.


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

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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2007 :  16:30:31  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks Robert. I sent this:

Mr Brown, I am a Casualty of your painful Tax Credit system, which has overpaid almost £6 billion to date. I'm one of the two million innocent, hardworking British families who have been plunged into poverty and hardship as money we were assured was ours is now being grabbed back with menaces. Despite damning report after damning report, the onus is still on claimants to prove they could not possibly have known that the Revenue made errors in their favour, rather than on HMRC to prove culpability. With HMRC acting as judge and jury, this is an impossible, soul-destroying task.

Tired of waiting for government to finally realise that much is still wrong and put things properly right, more and more of us are joining Tax Credit Casualties, a unique user group to help people to dispute the automatic recovery by the Revenue of money we were assured was rightfully ours, and which we spent on supporting our families. Commonly claimants no longer have this money, notified every change they were supposed to, received no proper explanations of what went wrong, and are seeing their fundamental Human Rights to a Fair Trial flouted by HM Revenue and Customs who can overlook all evidence we present and force claimants to pay back without ever having had an independent hearing. The Revenue have no accountability by law to us and invariably rule in their own favour.

Tax Credit Casualties are campaigning for an Amnesty on all non-fraudulent overpayments, as you will know has been recommended by organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Child Poverty Action Group, One Parent Families and the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, as well as the Ombudsman and others.

We recently delivered a petition to Number Ten for your consideration, but as we are still waiting for a response, you may wish to see just what the electorate think of this state-sanctioned financial and psychological abuse of trusting lower income families.

Please visit our website and do the right thing by us - write off these crippling non-fault, non-fraudulent overpayments now!

You must be logged in to see this link.

It'll probably be ignored, along with everything else I've sent him and Blair. but I've tried.
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auntieh
Rank; Really should become a politician



United Kingdom
625 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2007 :  20:42:09  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
I've sent one too in similar vein. I've said that I hold him personally responsible for the situation I am in as he invented the system.

I was polite though and ended by wishing him good luck in his new job. He'll need it when the press finally gets hold of this story in the way it deserves.
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Sarah
Rank; Captain Gordon



247 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2007 :  13:07:28  Show Profile Send Sarah a Private Message
I sent:

Mr Brown,

Congratulations on your new appointment as Prime Minister. I am sure you are very excited and looking forward to achieving much in your new role. I wonder what you will do first? The Labour manifesto is full of promise and hope of a better life, but I wonder what the reality of your actions will be?

When you first stepped up as Chancellor of the Exchequer Labour promised to help parents on benefits get back to work and to fight poverty and so launched the ‘Pick it up, it’s yours’ and ‘Money with your name on it’ campaigns and tax credits, which Labour said would be a vital anti-poverty device. Personally I was delighted – I was able to move from income support to part-time employment. This was the helping hand I needed to lift my son and I from the poverty line. I was not alone – the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicted in 1998 that the tax credit system would see an increase of 30,000 people seeking jobs. Over time I was even able to progress to full-time employment as my son settled into full-time education. Life was great. Until the helping hand turned into a fist raised in threat.

In common with 2 million other people each year I had been overpaid tax credits through no fault of my own, but through the maladministration and inefficiency of the tax credit office. 2 million claimants every year overpaid to the tune of £2billion – it’s staggering! Just as alarming is the report by the BBC in 2006 that since its inception the tax credits system has ‘lost’ £1.7million and an estimated £100million had been stolen by criminal gangs committing fraud. Something is seriously wrong with either the system or the people running the system.

Well the software was a problem but HMRC were able to claim compensation for that from the developer and surely the Government wouldn’t try to claim those costs twice? Once from the developer, and once from the affected claimants? Even the report ‘Tax Credit Overpayments: The Road to Recovery’ stated:

“There is an element of duplicity in any system where the Revenue may seek compensation from their IT developer whilst at the same time seeking recovery from tax credit recipients affected by the system’s failures.”

Would you allow a department under your control to be duplicitous, Mr Brown?

What if the staff are to blame for the errors? After all we know that HMRC used non-tax credit trained staff to handle tax credit calls and gave unrealistic targets to them for the length of phone calls with claimants. Could poorly trained staff be to blame? Surely not, as HMRC rewarded staff in tax credit offices with bonuses totalling more than £60,000 between December 05 and September 06 (figures provided by Dawn Primarolo, Paymaster General, to David Laws MP).

But not to worry, this is the UK: we have Human Rights, innocent until proven guilty, the right to a fair trial, an accessible legal system – this mess will be sorted fairly, honestly and transparently.

Well, for fair, how about HMRC actively pursuing repayments whilst claimants are still in the appeals process? HMRC threatening Court Action and referring cases to debt collectors whilst appeals are ongoing? Or HMRC deliberately choosing language that leads claimants to believe there is no appeals process? All are fact; I have first hand experience of all these and many others do too. Innocent until proven guilty? Not where HMRC are concerned! The burden of proof lies with the claimant not with HMRC.

Still, there’s always right to a fair trial and the accessible legal system, isn’t there? Well no. The nature of tax credits means that claimants are on low to moderate incomes – no spare cash for legal representation, but generally too much income to be entitled to Legal Aid. As for a fair trial, well no, not where HMRC are concerned.

HMRC can produce a ‘certificate’ in Court that means you owe the money and it is not open for discussion. No, you don’t get to have your say in Court. It would further appear that HMRC are above the law:

• A taxpayer has no right to claim damages for public law breach by HMRC nor is any private law claim available;
• HMRC owes no direct duty of care to taxpayers nor is it vicariously liable for negligence of HMRC officers;
• HMRC is immune from damages claims arising from its negligence and/or delay caused by its officers.

I would suggest, Mr Brown, that your first act in power should be to write off all non-claimant-fault overpayments. We are the people who entrusted our country to you – 2 million claimants a year, 2 million disenfranchised voters each year. Or are you resting on your laurels hoping we will all still vote for you? Now you know without a doubt that there is something wrong with your system and your staff – Dawn Primarolo steadfastly refuses to admit there is a problem, but 2 million people a year can’t all have made unreasonable assumptions about their payments – what will you do about it?

I hope you will write off the payments (this should not be difficult as The Times on 29.03.07 reported £5billion in unclaimed tax credits) or at the very least establish a clear, fair and independent appeals process (appeals are currently judged in-house by HMRC staff) because you believe in fairness and have principles. But if not for these reasons help me and people like me because we will be casting our votes at the next election and our children who you are pushing back into poverty with your demands for repayment and stopped payments may well remember the things they went without through their childhood when they are old enough to vote.

I remember ‘Things can only get better’ – let’s hope they can.

Sarah McCall
National Co-Ordinator
Tax Credit Casualties
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2007 :  19:10:10  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Sarah, that's great. For anyone else wanting to send Gordon a comment:


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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 03/07/2007 :  12:52:16  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
An excellent post from Sarah - as always!

I'm thinking about sending a copy of it to my MP in the hope that it may gain wider circulation among those who expect us to vote for them.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  07:26:35  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Once we find out whether the new Paymaster General is Pat Cardy or Tessa Jowell (both names have apparently been given), we can write to the new Paymaster with our concerns about this system.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 08/07/2007 :  10:33:31  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Apparently it is Tessa Jowell.
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n/a
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240 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  11:02:04  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  13:06:20  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Totally irrelevant, but my eldest daughter thinks Tessa Jowell looks like the lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers, and when she showed me his piccie I had to agree.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  16:54:47  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

Totally irrelevant, but my eldest daughter thinks Tessa Jowell looks like the lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers, and when she showed me his piccie I had to agree.



Maybe a bit irreverent too?
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Robert
Admin



United Kingdom
829 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2007 :  12:35:35  Show Profile Send Robert a Private Message
Ok ive sent another message to MR Brown.i suggest we all write to him every week.see if someone takes notice..

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

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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2007 :  14:41:45  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Excellent idea, Rob. I've sent him another message. If, as you say, we all do this every week, I do believe the message will sink in.


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auntieh
Rank; Really should become a politician



United Kingdom
625 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2007 :  19:37:58  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
Done mine too.
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