William Eichler 26 August 2021

Cotswold council apologises for distress caused by council tax warnings

Cotswold council apologises for distress caused by council tax warnings image

Cotswold District Council has apologised after being criticised for the way it handled a man’s request for help paying his council tax during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The man requested help with his council tax payments, in part because of the impact of the pandemic on his finances. However, despite keeping to a reduced payment plan, the council sent him letters warning his payment was overdue, causing him distress.

An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council did not give the man clear information about when the payment plan would end or that he would face recovery action irrespective of keeping to payments.

According to the Ombudsman’s report, the council did not clearly explain its debt recovery policy and acted contrary to the information it did provide the man. The council also did not suggest the man apply for discretionary relief.

Significantly, the Ombudsman found the council did not publish any information about a discretionary relief policy and does not appear to have any set criteria for considering a request.

Commenting on his findings, Ombudsman Michael King said: ‘People falling on hard times in the Cotswolds are being placed at a significant disadvantage by the council not making them aware of its Council Tax discretionary relief scheme, and not prompting them to apply when they say they need help. And even if they do apply, my investigation has found there is no criteria for how the council will consider their application.’

He added: ‘I am particularly disappointed with the council’s response to my report. There have been repeated unacceptable problems with communication and I now call on the council to not only improve its services to people in the district, but also its response to my office.’

Asked to comment on the report, Cllr Mike Evemy, cabinet member for Finance, said that the council had ‘apologised unreservedly’ to the resident.

‘We have already started implementing the recommendations within the LGO report to avoid this situation happening again. As soon as we were made aware, our policies were not suitable we immediately started work to change them and they are scheduled to be changed shortly,’ he said.

‘We always aim to be understanding and support our residents sympathetically. During the pandemic, our teams have worked very hard with over 1200 residents to support them with council tax payments and relief during what was a very challenging time for so many. Unfortunately, in this situation we didn’t get that right and we have learnt from it to improve in future.’

Skate parks are not the only fruit image

Skate parks are not the only fruit

On Go Skateboarding Day, Susannah Walker asks councils and their leisure and park departments to think differently about what facilities they provide for teenagers.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Teacher of the Deaf

City of Bradford MDC
Band/Grade MPS / UPS + 1 or 2 SEN
We are seeking to recruit a creative, innovative and experienced Teacher of the Deaf to work in the Support Team for Deaf Children. Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of Bradford MDC

Registration Officer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£26,481 -£37,677
Do you want a fast-paced and varied role? Would you like to help people through some of the most important moments of their lives? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Head of Service – Adults Services South, Safeguarding & DoLS

Bolton Council
£51,772
It is an exciting time to join us as Head of Service for Safeguarding, DoLS and South District. Bolton, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Bolton Council

Apprenticeship

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£28,470 - £44,628
Kick-start your career with an apprenticeship based in Royal Borough of Greenwich. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Social Worker – Enhanced Social Care Support In Reach

Essex County Council
£32,787 to £44,826
We currently have an opportunity for a Social Worker to join our Countywide Enhanced Support In Reach Team. Essex / Countywide
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.