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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Baffled Barrow residents earn an apology over tax bills fiasco

LETTERS demanding as little as five pence in overpaid benefit payments from several years ago have been sent out to dozens of residents due to an “administration issue”.

50062378B004.jpg_002
pursued for pennies Mike Gardiner of Barrow has been asked to disregard a letter telling him to pay back a 93p overpayment in benefits HARRY ATKINSON REF: 50062378B002

Scores of letters, many addressed to pensioners and deceased residents, have been sent by Barrow Borough Council and private firm Liberata in recent weeks, saying people owe minuscule amounts of money because they were overpaid unemployment benefit and council tax support in previous decades.

Most residents affected have now received another letter from the council telling them to ignore these “historic” losses and apologising for the error.

On Friday, the Evening Mail ran a story featuring 72-year-old former welder Mike Gardiner, of Ancaster Street, Barrow, who was ordered to pay back 93p from a benefit overpayment in 1993.

Since then, more residents have got in touch to say that they received similar notices through the post demanding money – with stated amounts as little as 20p, £1.71 and £1.90.

In a joint statement, Liberata and Barrow Borough Council said: “We are aware that an issue has caused a number of erroneous council tax invoices and notifications to be produced.

“We have identified the customers affected to confirm that the invoice is inaccurate and have sent them a letter to apologise for the error.

“We have reviewed our procedures and are introducing measures to ensure it does not happen again.”

A spokesman from Liberata, which works with the council to manage the authority’s revenue and benefits service, refused to reveal how many letters have been sent out to residents; however the Evening Mail understands the figure to be several dozen.

The spokesman also did not comment on why the letters had suddenly been sent out, as many relate to alleged cases from more than 20 years ago.

A female pensioner from Barrow, who did not wish to be named, was one of many to get a letter.

She received a notice from the director of resources at Barrow Town Hall, saying she owed five pence due to an overpayment of council tax support between April 1, 2002 and April 21, 2002.

The woman said: “It’s pathetic.

“Pensioners have got enough to worry about. It’s just so sad.”

Other people have posted copies of their letters online, including a man whose deceased grandmother was charged £2.39 for a benefit overpayment between 1993 and 1995.

Over the weekend, Mr Gardiner received a renotification, apologising for the original 10-page letter and telling him: “Please can you ignore any loss... we have only just been made aware of an administration issue.”

Have your say

"Administration error" Barrow Council must think we are all stupid. It was a human botch-up and of deep stupidity.

Anyway, all ends well with an apology, even though it was a contested for the most idiotic act this century.

Posted by keith nichols on 30 April 2014 at 22:38

This is unacceptable what a waste of public money in fact this little stunt has cost us more than the debts they wanted to collect. For a start whose brainwave was it to send letters out for debt less than the price of the stamp and the 10 pieces of paper and envelope it was written on. Then further expense to apologise.

I don't need to pay council tax for you idiots in the councils to throw it away I can do that very well myself thank you.

In one word raging !!

Posted by Josie on 30 April 2014 at 19:28

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