Nigel Taylor has gone from managing TV hits like The Bill to helping people manage their bills. Read his practical tips on how to avoid the pain of escalating debt.
Nigel Taylor volunteers one day a week offering practical help dealing with bills and money matters.
“Now you can ring or go to Manor Gardens any weekday, between 10am and 4pm, to speak to helpful volunteers about your finances, benefit queries and anything that’s worrying you.”
Since May the one-day drop-in, operating for decades, has changed. Now you can ring or go to Manor Gardens any weekday, between 10am and 4pm, to speak to helpful volunteers about your finances, benefit queries and anything that’s worrying you. If your problem is money – such as unpaid phone or utility bills or changed circumstances – then you may meet Nigel, who reckons he’s helped more than 400 people with financial concerns during the three years he’s been volunteering.
Nigel, 63, comes from the world of TV. At the BBC he worked on programmes with huge budgets like House of Cards, Vanity Fair and the Mrs Bradley Mysteries. More recently he was at Talkback Thames working on The Bill. It seems that managing big TV hits has similarities with managing life finances because both needs bills paid on time and a determination to stay in budget.
Opposite are ways you can avoid the pain of an escalating debt – fair or unfair – arising from any bill.
Get help – from Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm. Phone the Information & Advice team on 020 7281 6018, or come along to Manor Gardens to access the right support.
Here are some insightful tips from Nigel:
1. Act quickly
“Debt can mount up. For example if you pay £25 a month for a phone but it’s not covering the cost of your calls, or the debt, the debt builds up and soon there’s £600 on your phone bill. That’s when to come to us,” says Nigel. “It’s surprising how many people bring a carrier bag with dozens of letters, some unopened. You get into so much trouble if you ignore brown envelopes.”
2. Don’t ignore a bill
“Don’t think a debt will be wiped off. A debt has to be paid. If you ignore it you will have court costs, bailiff costs and the companies charge for dealing with debt,” says Nigel. “People think this is unfair and they are being picked on. My answer is it’s probably a machine – the company doesn’t know you and isn’t picking on you.”
Tip: Next time you get a letter like this bring it in and Age UK Islington will help you respond.
3. Don’t be upset
“People worry and then don’t focus on the issue,” says Nigel. “Older people get stressed by small amounts of debt; £300 may be a lot of money to you, but it is unlikely that you are going to be taken to court if you deal with it properly. Focus on the solutions and put a plan into place.”
4. Learn to read bills
“Three years ago one of my first clients came in with a BT bill. She was crying and in a terrible state. I took a look and saw it was £500 in credit! I said ‘Most people just ask for a cheque’,” says Nigel who would like more people to be able to understand their bills – however confusing companies make them – especially the difference between a credit (good) and a debt (to be paid).
5. It’s not all about computers
“The vast majority of people we see don’t have access to a computer and we’re beginning to find you can only access info and help on line,” says Nigel. Luckily he has a good tip: “Generally I find it’s better to send a letter rather than an email. You just need to write your address, make your points and put it in the post. Then it’s on file and the company is obliged to write a letter back in reply. And you can always send a letter to the Chief Executive – whereas emails tend to disappear.”
6. Legal matters
Twice a week Nigel also works as a magistrate near his home at Bromley and Bexley City Court. “I learn something every single day in court. It’s a very good background to help people who have legal issues and have a summons to court. I can assist them with what documentation to take,” he says calmly. “I can also give people a reality check. If they’ve tripped over a pavement and say ‘I want to sue the council’ I’ll explain it will cost them a lot of money, and it is unlikely the council will admit liability.” A better approach might be to write to the council and “get it off your chest”.