Mum of serving soldier hit with £5000 council bill

Karen Leeman and Joe Heywood with a photo of thier son with his service medal''w130704b
Karen Leeman and Joe Heywood with a photo of thier son with his service medal''w130704b

THE mum of a serving soldier has been stung with a council tax bill for over £5000 because the borough council think her son still lives at home.

Sam Leeman (19) joined the army in 2011 and is based at barracks in Munster, Germany where he pays rent, his own food bills and a community charge.

His mum, Karen, of Rosedale Close, Whitby filled in forms in connection with her housing benefit when Sam first joined but was amazed to receive the backdated bill for £5200 in September.

She has spent months trying to sort it out with Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) and has lodged an appeal but last week got a letter to say she would have to pay off the bill at £23 per week, despite the appeal not yet having been resolved.

Karen told the Gazette: “When he first joined I took the enlistment papers to the council. I can’t understand why they have left it two years and put me £5000 in debt backdated.

“No-one that I have spoken to agrees with it, not even the lady in the council offices.”

Part of the confusion has arisen because SBC believe Karen should be charging Sam, a former Whitby Community College pupil, rent when he is at home on leave.

She says she is even prepared to pay bedroom tax - a new rule being drafted in where people receiving housing benefit are taxed for having a spare room - even though Sam’s room is used to store the possessions he can’t take with him to barracks and while he is on tour.

Less than six months after joining the 1 Yorks Regiment, Sam was deployed to Afghanistan for a seventh month tour, is currently in Kenya and in July will begin a five year posting to Cyprus.

She added: “I can’t say ‘Sam, I need your bank card to pay rent’ when he is out in Africa. There is no way on earth I would charge him rent. He has probably only been here for 10 weeks out of the last two years. When he comes home on leave he comes here obviously, I can’t put him out on the street.

“He has with him the stuff he needs but what about the 2000 dvds he has or karate trophies and certificates, I don’t want to throw them out. He went to Afghanistan in what he was stood in and came back in the clothes he was stood in. They only thing he brought back was the sand in his boots.

“He had a really bad tour in Afghanistan, they lost about 20 men over there and this is playing on his mind.”