Two homeowners face combined bill of almost £90,000 after incorrectly filling out paperwork

  • Watch the report by ITV Meridian's James Davies

Two home owners from West Berkshire are facing a combined bill of almost £90,000 after incorrectly filling out paperwork before developing their properties. 

They have been embroiled in a lengthy dispute with the council, despite the local authority acknowledging that it was human error.

Maria Dobson's dream home remains unfinished after she received a bill for £20,000 from West Berkshire Council. 

Maria said she shouldn't have been charged the Community Infrastructure Levy but a mistake in her paperwork saw the council demand the money, before adding more than £5,000 in interest.

Maria Dobson said: "We were told that there was no way out of it, it was a legal requirement, that we had to pay it. If we didn't pay it we would end up with courts, bailiffs and even a prison sentence and all because one piece of paper was missing from a form."

  • Maria Dobson, Kintbury resident:

Roger McCabe, who lives in Lambourn, bought The Malt Shovel pub in 2014. 

After failing to make any money he turned it into his home and built 5 more flats on the existing footprint. 

The painter and decorator is now being chased for £64,000, a charge he said he too wouldn't have to pay had he completed his forms correctly.

Roger McCabe said: "The council has admitted it's a zero CIL but they still sent me a bill for £64,000 because they said I filled a form out wrong."

"I thought council's was there to help us, to guide us, to protect us - you know to answer our questions and try and get us on the right tracks, help the taxpayer pay the right bill."

Roger McCabe bought The Malt Shovel pub in 2014 Credit: ITV Meridian

In a public meeting in March, West Berkshire Council admitted both Maria Dobson and Roger McCabe wouldn't have been required to pay the money had the mistakes not been made.

Councillor Jeff Brooks, Lib Dem Deputy Leader, West Berkshire Council said: "This is disgraceful. It's morally indefensible to me and I don't think this charge what they call the Community Infrastructure Levy, CIL, was meant for cases like Roger and Maria.

"The levy is for developers who are developing quite a few houses and need to give something to roads, infrastructure, schooling.

"It's a dreadful situation for them and this council has to step up and act with the integrity it should and cancel those bills. Pay Maria the money back and cancel Roger's."

  • Councillor Jeff Brooks, Lib Dem Deputy Leader, West Berkshire Council:

Maria has already paid the charge, so West Berkshire Council said her case is closed.

The Council also said "claims that it treated Mrs Dobson and Mr McCabe badly, were rejected by the Local Government Ombudsman. The matter with Mr McCabe is still ongoing, as he had every opportunity to appeal the council's decision. After three years, it says it must enforce the debt." 

The council also said it was reviewing the way the Community Infrastructure Levy operates in West Berkshire, to ensure debts are not left outstanding for a long time.