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Complaints made about district council

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4 AUG

Complaints made about district council

By timesecholife on in All News, Featured News, Leek news

The Local Government Ombudsman has received and dealt with two complaints regarding Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC). The two complaints have been detailed in the Local Government Ombudsman’s latest report which outlines complaints it has received and dealt with for the year between April 2021 and March 2022.

The Local Government Ombudsman has received and dealt with two complaints regarding Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC).

The two complaints have been detailed in the Local Government Ombudsman’s latest report which outlines complaints it has received and dealt with for the year between April 2021 and March 2022.

The first complaint about SMDC was regarding how the council failed to calculate an individual’s council tax correctly and then passed their debt on to bailiffs who were “rude and aggressive” towards them.

The individual, described as Ms X, felt that the council did not properly understand their complaints at stage one and two and felt that the bailiffs were aggressive and rude towards them even though they were vulnerable and suffering with the effects of long Covid.

Therefore, they wanted their accounts removed from the bailiff company, an apology from the bailiff’s and the council, the bailiff staff to have training in recognising vulnerability, the council to stop using bailiff companies and compensation.

A spokesman for the Ombudsman stated: “The Council has now granted Ms X Council Tax Support as she has a low income.

The Council say in their response to me it is unlikely she will be able to pay these debts. It will therefore put these debts forward for consideration for write-off.

Even though Ms X is in receipt of Council Tax Support there will still be an amount payable for the next financial year which starts on 1 April 2022.

The Council will set up an instalment plan and says Ms X must keep to these payments to prevent arrears building up again.”

As well as this, the spokesperson stated: “The bailiff company apologised for the telephone call. This is a satisfactory remedy.

The bailiff is at fault for a telephone call made to Ms X, causing upset and distress. The apology given is an adequate remedy.”

The second complaint about SMDC was regarding how the council incorrectly applied an empty property charge to an individual’s council tax account and the council failed to identify its error in its complaint process.

The individual, describes as Mrs B, complained that the council also incorrectly told her to appeal to the calculation and claimed that although the council acknowledged its mistake and refunded the money, it failed to consider the “unnecessary distress, time and trouble” it caused them.

A spokesperson for Ombudsman stated: “The Council had opportunities to identify it had been incorrectly charging Mrs B the increased rate of Council Tax.

Instead, it continued to say the charge was applied correctly and directed her to the valuation tribunal. This is fault.

The Council only identified its error after we became involved.

It could have put things right earlier, which would have avoided causing Mrs B unnecessary distress, time and trouble.

Once it established its error the Council apologised and arranged a refund for Mrs B.

It should also pay Mrs B the lost interest on the amount she overpaid between 2014 and 2021.”

The spokesperson also stated that: “Within one month of my final decision the Council agrees to: Pay Mrs B £250 in recognition of the unnecessary distress, time and trouble it caused her.

Pay Mrs B the lost interest on the money it overcharged her. This should be calculated using the retail price index for the relevant period from 2014 to 2021.

Within two months of my final decision the Council agrees to: Review the information it provides to residents about empty property charges. It should ensure the information is clear when the charge will be applied and what information the Council needs to make a decision.

Review the Council’s policy for empty property charging to ensure it does not incorrectly add this charge to properties that do not meet the definition.

The Council should provide the Ombudsman with evidence it has completed the agreed actions.”

To see the full reports on these two complaints about SMDC, go online to: www.lgo.org.uk/your-councils-performance/staffordshire-moorlands-district-council/decisions/2021/u/Listing.

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