A GRANDMOTHER has said she would rather go to prison than pay bailiffs a £340 fee, owed as a result of a £20 council tax debt.
Sheila McCallion, of Mariner's Way, Rhoose, said she went into arrears with her council tax after getting into financial difficulties and battling through family problems over the last two years.
Now, after bailiffs turned up at her door following a late payment of £20, she has found herself with an even bigger debt on her hands, owing them for their services.
She has said she is willing to fight the debt all the way and would sooner give her furniture away than pay the bailiffs.
"I'm willing to go to prison," she said. "I will give my stuff to charity before I let them have it.
"You work hard all your life for decent stuff and they want to take it away over £20. They shouldn't be allowed to do it.
"I told the bailiffs, I'm not fighting about the original bill – I'm fighting about you and what you're doing to people."
Sheila, 50, explained that the problems started when, after failing to find sufficient hours in her job as a support worker, she began claiming benefits while struggling with the rising cost of living and the introduction of the bedroom tax.
"I've always struggled," she said. "But now I can't afford to live in my own house."
On top of these struggles, the father of Sheila's daughter Samantha Madden was dying of cancer, meaning she had to make frequent trips to London, and her grandson Cameron was born with spina bifida.
She decided to become a carer for two-year-old Cameron to help Samantha, who also has an infant daughter.
Losing track of her bills, Sheila says that she fell behind on her council tax to the value of approximately £160.
Having agreed to pay this debt at a rate of £20 a month, she got the bill down to £86 before Cameron became unwell and a difficult month saw her miss a payment.
The day she paid the debt, she arrived home to find a letter telling her that bailiffs were going to be visiting.
After an initial visit from bailiffs to price up her belongings, Sheila decided to empty her house and take a stand.
"£86 will now cost me £340," she said. "How can they justify that?
"They want £33 a month, I can't afford that. Even £3 is a lot of money for me.
"All I ask for is a bit of empathy. Can they not just take the late payment?"
Sheila said that the strain was proving difficult for her and her daughter.
Samantha, 22, added: "At times my mum was working three jobs to give me a decent life.
"It's not nice to see her in this position when she has worked her backside off all her life and now she's doing me the biggest favour ever by helping me look after my kids."
A spokeswoman for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said that this procedure would be undertaken only for someone with recurring missed payments and a history of bad debt and that every effort would have been made to help with any problems or complaints prior to the bailiffs being contacted.