Monday, June 15, 2015

It is all wrong – a letter to the Pension Service

Dear Glyn Caron,

In my letter of 10 June 2015 I asked: ‘On what basis have the Pension Service found me in debt of £11,956.70 ?’ On 12 June you replied: ‘The deductions are for an overpayment that dates back to 10 October 2008. The overpayment was because of undeclared earnings by your partner.’ Would you justify your statement by giving me facts? I must repeat my question: ‘On what basis have the Pension Service found me in debt of £11,956.70?’

Before I get the facts, let me ask: If the overpayment goes back to 10 October 2008, why was I charged with the debt of £11,956.70 almost a year later? The circumstances were dramatic. Let me quote from my letter to Ursula Grum of 7/10/2009:
‘In a letter of 08/09/2009 you informed me that my Pension Credit was overpaid £158.34 for the period 06/07/2009-26/07/2009. I received the letter on Monday September 14. In the letter you stated: “The overpayment occurred because on 09/07/2009 your circumstances changed and the office that paid your benefit was not told at the correct time about a change to the level of earnings in your household.” This allegation is false. On 23 July 2009 I sent The Pension Service a letter, in which I informed you of my wife’s earnings for three days of supply teaching for the period 2 to 14 July, and I enclosed the three pay slips. I did so as soon as my wife received the pay. I did not contact you on the day I received your letter of 8/9, for I expected a visit from the Pension Service Customer Liaison Officer, announced for the next day, with whom I wanted to discuss the issue.
On September 15 I was visited by the Pension Service Customer Liaison Officer to whom I showed the relevant documents concerning the supposed overpayment. At that point she gave me your letter of 11 August 2009 in which you inform me that in the period from 01/08/2005 to 12/10/2008 I was overpaid £11,688.36, and from 13/10/2008 to 19/10/2008 I was overpaid £75.28, that is in total £11,763.64. I phoned your department in the officer’s presence, appealing against your decision.’

Now back to your letter of 12 June 2015; you wrote: ‘The deductions are for an overpayment that dates back to 10 October 2008.’ I find the date intriguing.

Early in Autumn 2008 I informed Classicists and classical philosophers that I put on my website the first volume of The Lost Plato, which focuses on nine dialogues of Plato which I consider as written prior to Socrates' death. I indicated that I was preparing its sequel, a systematic study of the dialogues written after the death of Socrates. I asked: ‘In your view, should this work be undertaken? If so, what can be done that it is undertaken in conditions worthy of the work it requires? If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?’ Nicholas Denyer replied ‘NO’, which he justified as follows: ‘You do not name the nine dialogues you view as written before Socrates' death. But whichever nine dialogues you were to name, there is no reason to suppose that your view about their dating is correct. Amplifying a view which there is no reason to suppose correct is not a good use of your time and talents.’ Nicholas Denyer said his NO without looking at least at the few pages of the ‘Introduction’.

In October 2008 I wrote to my colleagues: ‘I should like to inform you that as of yesterday my questions acquired an unexpectedly grave existential dimension. From the Stroud District Council I received the following letter:
“We have been advised that your Pension Credits have stopped, which may affect your entitlement to Housing or Council Tax Benefits. We have therefore suspended payment of these benefits in accordance with Regulation 11 of the Decision and Appeals Regulations 2001. There is no right of appeal against this decision."
I phoned the Council, informed the lady I spoke to that my wife, who was self-employed on a part time basis until September is now studying at Cheltenham, taking a year long post-graduate course to become a teacher. The lady told me that on the information they received from the Pension Service my Pension Credits were disconnected as of July 2008. This surprised me, for when I asked my wife a few days ago whether I was receiving the pension credit as normal, she looked at my account and said "yes". I was advised to contact the Pension Service, which I did. The lady I spoke to at that office told me that my last Pension Credit payment would be sent to me on October 19: "Your Pension Credit is stopped because we have been informed that you and your wife are receiving Working Tax Credit." I told the lady that they were badly misinformed, for my wife ceased to work, as I duly informed their office at the beginning of September. I pointed to a letter I received from her office on 10 September, which said:
"Thank you for informing us of the cessation of your partner's self-employment."
The Pension Credit I have been receiving until October 19 was £62.79 a week. Since we neither smoke nor drink, and live all in all frugally, we have been able to survive.
This morning I received a letter from the Pension Services, dated 13 October 2008, which says that "from 21 July 2008 you will get £5.10 a week. From July 2008 you are not entitled to Pension Credit."
The section "How Pension Credit has been worked out" says
"the minimum amount of money the Government says you must have each week taking account of specific circumstances is £189.35. State pension for Julius Tomin £31.38. Working Tax Credit for Doina Cornell £70.18. Earnings of Doina Cornell [my wife has kept her maiden name] £82.69. Total income £184.25. Your appropriate amount of £189.35, less your total income of £184.25. So your total guarantee credit is £5.10."

I see a certain similarity between Denyer's NO and the Pension Service calculations. Denyer does not need to look at a single page of The Lost Plato in order to proclaim confidently that there is no reason to suppose that my views are correct and that therefore my question whether my future work deserves to be undertaken in conditions worthy of such work deserves a NO. I may phone and write to the Pension Service as often as I wish, informing the office workers that my wife is now a student, that she has no earnings, that we consequently do not receive any Working Tax Credit - the Pension Credit officers KNOW better.’

You can find the full text of my email on my website, where it figures as email No VI in the ‘Preface’ entitled ‘Eleven emails on The Lost Plato addressed to classicists and classical philosophers’.
With best wishes,
Julius Tomin

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