Westminster Council has admitted that 10,000 Council Tax payment books had been issued with the wrong account payment details and that residents had made payments into the wrong account.
Labour called on Councillor Melvyn Caplan (Cabinet member for Finance & Customer Services) and Councillor Andrew Havery (Scrutiny Chair for Audit and Performance) to account for the Council’s failure at the Council meeting on 10th July.
Councillor Barrie Taylor, Deputy Leader of Westminster’s Labour Group, asked the following questions of Cllr Havery:
• What representations have you made to the Cabinet member for Finance and Customer Services and did you make any steps to inform residents of the error?
In his reply, Cllr Havery made clear that he thought it was neither his duty to make any representations, or to ensure the public were advised of the error. He expressed the belief that this was the duty of Council officers.
• Cllr Taylor also raised questions with Cllr Caplan about the numbers of people having made payments into the incorrect account; the traceability of payments ; whether any money had not been recovered; whether all residents had now been contacted & whether it created any enforcement action or arrears problems for residents
In his reply, Cllr Caplan admitted that he had known about the issue for some time, but was only willing to state that the matter had now been corrected at no cost to the Council or residents.
Councillor Barrie Taylor had this to say about the mess;
”Surprisingly, neither of the Councillors who have a responsibility for clearing up this serious failure offered any apology to the 10,000 residents affected. Or, in the case of Cllr Caplan, who has ‘Customer Services’ in his remit – whether compensation was offered to people who acted on the false information in the payment books? I believe John Lewis plc. would know how to value their customers and how to retain their loyalty. The City Council often embraces these principles when it criticizes publicly-run services, but seems slow to act when the boot is on the other foot.”
“Both Councillors Havery and Caplan are paid reasonable personal allowances by the City Council to undertake their respective duties and their replies should reflect the seriousness of the issue.”