Bristol hockey player Georgie Twigg "penalised for playing for her country"
By The Bristol Post | Thursday, June 21, 2012, 05:00
PARENTS of a young Olympic athlete say she is being penalised for playing for her country after Bristol City Council threatened her with bailiffs over a £1,500 council tax bill.
Georgie Twigg in action
Bristol University law student Georgie Twigg is a member of the Team GB hockey squad and carried the Olympic Torch through Clifton last month.
The 21-year-old was determined to finish her degree while training for a place at the London Games.
With a tough schedule that sees her training in Maidenhead four days a week, Georgie opted to complete her final year in two academic years instead of one.
But because she only attends university one day a week, Georgie is now classed as a part-time student – and has been landed with the council tax bill for the house in Clifton she rents with five other people. The other residents are all full-time students, which means they are exempt from paying the charge.
So Bristol City Council sent Georgie the bill for the full amount of council tax on the property – minus a 25 per cent discount as she is classed as the sole occupant.
To make matters worse, the house that Georgie shares with the other students in Sunningdale, Clifton, falls into council tax category band E.
The council says it has looked "sympathetically" at the case but has no leeway to make an exception as it is bound by national rules.
Georgie also rents a house in Maidenhead, on which she pays full council tax.
She says she does not have the money to pay the bill and contacted the council to ask that she be treated as a student – only for her plea to fall on deaf ears.
The council sent its first demand in the autumn and in February, on returning from Argentina where the GB hockey team won a silver medal at The Champions Trophy for the first time ever, Georgie discovered a court summons waiting for her.
Both her parents wrote to the council, including to leader Simon Cook and chief executive Jan Ormondroyd, to ask that she be made exempt due to her exceptional circumstances.
But the council told the family there was nothing it could do.
At the start of this month, days after carrying the Olympic Torch and just as she was about to take her final law exams, Georgie received a notice of intended bailiff action.
Her father Robert, 57, told the Post: "We feel that Georgie has been penalised for trying to complete her studies while at the same time qualifying for the Olympic team.
"It can't be right that this charge wouldn't have been put on her if she had opted out of such a fantastic opportunity.
"Bristol City Council has been completely unsupportive and unreasonable – no one seems to want to stick their head above the parapet and realise that these are exceptional circumstances – it just seems so wrong."
A spokesman for the city council said: "Unfortunately the law regarding council tax discount is quite clear and does not allow any leeway on the part of the city council.
"Miss Twigg forfeited her eligibility for the council tax discount when she reduced the number of days she was studying in Bristol.
"We have looked at this case sympathetically to see if there was any room for discretion on our part, given that she is about to represent the UK at the highest level, but regrettably there is none and we are bound by national legislation.
"It is a situation that can also affect other individuals who give up their time for good causes such as special constables and charity volunteers.
"We have offered as reasonable terms as we can for the repayment of the debt incurred. It goes without saying that we wish her all the best at the Olympics."