Worried students received court summons this week as Manchester City Council clamped down on residents who had failed to pay their council tax.
Students living in residential houses had, however, only followed incorrect University of Manchester advice to not inform the council of their student status, which would still exempt them from paying the tax.
Last year, the University implemented a scheme wherein students living in certain postcodes would not have to take any action, as the University itself would notify the council. Leaflets were distributed to students stating this and the same information has been put on the University’s website.
However, Manchester City Council last week denied ever having received this information from the University, except for University Halls of Residence.
In reply, a University spokesman told Student Direct: “It should be stressed that to register for exemption, students still need to complete a short form and then send it to the council. Unfortunately it does appear there has been some confusion about this.”
Yet in its literature, the University forgot to stress this important information. Posing as a student living in one of the ‘exempt’ postcodes, Student Direct phoned the University’s Student Services last week and asked if it was necessary to do anything with regard to council tax. The answer was “No,” as was the answer when the same question was posed to the Welfare Office. The same mistaken advice was also given out by StudentNet on the University’s website and in a leaflet picked up from the Welfare Office.
The University spokesman added: “Student Services is taking urgent action to replace any potentially misleading sources of information.”
A third year student, who did not wish to be named, told Student Direct how worried she was when she received the summons. “I was shocked,” she said, “I thought I’d done everything I had to. But to receive a court summons – that’s scary.”
Concerned students are advised by the University to pick up a new and up-to-date form from the Visitors’ Centre in University Place.
The Council added that any student who has any query or concerns about council tax can contact Manchester City Council’s advice line on 0161 907 9400.