The time my Calibra was towed

The time my Calibra was towed - I used to have a Vauxhall Calibra. One day I replaced it with a Vauxhall Omega (I’m not married to Vauxhall or anything, it just made sense for various long-winded reasons). On that day, I parked the Calibra at a little parking spot near my house, wrote to the DVLA, and declared it SORN. In other words I told the DVLA it was off-road and would not be paying road tax on it.

To make sure this was above board, before I did all this, I telephoned my local council’s Highways department and asked about what, exactly, this parking space was. After all it wasn’t my property, but I had seen other untaxed cars stored in it, sometimes for a long time. They told me it was “unclaimed land” i.e. essentially just a piece of concrete someone laid once which they have nothing to do with. This certainly explains why it is pitted and overgrown with weeds. As such, it isn’t on the public highway, and a car declared as SORN is legally allowed to be there. They were very specific about that.
So imagine my surprised when, sometime during the morning one cold October day, it acquired some big red warning stickers from the DVLA, threatening me with fire and brimstone for not taxing my vehicle. Imagine my further surprise when the car was towed that lunchtime, less than two hours later. There then commenced a very fun four hours for me on the phone.
It went down a little something like this.
I rang the local DVLA office. There was only one guy in that day. I asked why they towed my car after less than a couple of hour’s warning; “it was illegally parked sir”. I asked why they bother with the warning stickers at all but simply kept getting same responses, at rapidly escalating levels of rudeness. I changed tact and challenged why the car was illegally parked; he insisted it was, I said it wasn’t. This went back and forth for 10 minutes until he hung up on me.
Furious, I rang the council, and spoke to an incredibly helpful lady. First interesting thing she said was, yes, my car was legally parked in that parking bay. Second thing was that standard procedure was for the DVLA office to fax to the council a special annotated map showing where each taxless car is parked, so the council can tell the DVLA whether the car is legal or not. She confirmed they had received no faxes about my car.
Incandescent, I went back to the DVLA with this. He refused to believe he’d done anything wrong and continued to babble that I would be taken to court for the heinous crime of car tax avoidance. It took — no word of exaggeration — it took over twenty minutes to encourage him to understand that according to the local council, he hadn’t checked with them, and if he had, they would have told him I’d done nothing wrong. Now, I’m not someone to get rude with people on the phone unnecessarily. I’m well aware that 90% of the time, these people are just doing their job, and getting shirty with the person on the other end doesn’t help.
This was the other 10% of the time. I was exceedingly blunt towards the end. Eventually, by sheer bloody brute force, I managed to cram into this fellow’s exceedingly small brain that All Was Not Well here. Eventually he agreed that the council could ring him tomorrow. I yelped, and asked him to please explain to me, in extreme detail, exactly why both I and the council should be running around sorting out his mistake, and why, for that matter, he thought this was a suitable use of tax payer’s money?
Finally, he suddenly remembered the faxed forms, and sent them to the Council. Less than ten minutes later they faxed back the “this guy has done nothing wrong” form. And then I finally got him into the position I had been working towards for hours of back-and-forth, my boot metaphorically on his throat.
“OK sir, you can come and collect your car now. We’re open until 5:30pm”
“Well, that’s all well and good, but I don’t finish work until then. And in any event, the car is untaxed. I cannot drive it back to my house on public roads.”
“Oh, that’s OK sir, we can give you special dispensation. You will be allowed to drive it without tax–”
“But I still will have no MOT or insurance. I cannot legally drive that vehicle back to where you illegally took it from today.”
(beat)
“But sir–”
“Here’s what we are going to do. You are going to call your supervisor and you are going to call your tow truck driver and he is going to deliver the car back to exactly where he took it from. And I’m not going to call the police.”
(beat)
“OK sir.”
And so he did.
The punchline? I had a chat to the truck driver when he was dropping the car off. He told me that when he collected the car, he had called into the DVLA first, and told them he was sure this was a private parking area and the car was legally parked here. The bloke — the same bloke — told him to “no, bring it in”. Apparently they have quotas. Imagine a local government organisation employing someone, then letting the power going to their head, eh? Unheard of!
I wrote a very stiff letter of complaint to the DVLA management afterwards but never heard back. I should have followed it up with my MP, in hindsight. God, I can feel the anger boiling over right now.
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