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Norwich City Council apologises after string of blunders over council tax bills

PUBLISHED: 17:45 06 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 07 April 2019

Norwich City Council was ordered to apologise for a council tax bill blunder.  Picture: Denise Bradley

Norwich City Council was ordered to apologise for a council tax bill blunder. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant

Council officers have apologised for a string of blunders which saw them mistakenly transfer a student’s council tax account to his lodgers - and then send the bills and reminders for payments to a different house.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld a complaint which the student, referred to as Mr R had lodged against Norwich City Council.

The ombudsman found a number of mistakes had been made by officers at City Hall.

The council accepted that an officer wrongly switched liability for Mr R’s council tax to his lodgers Miss T and Miss U in August 2017, having failed to check that it was Mr R who owned the property and was therefore liable for the bills.

Not only that, but the officer then entered the wrong address on the council’s system, which meant all bills, reminders and summonses to court for unpaid bills were sent to the wrong address.

When those documents were returned to the council as marked ‘not known at this address’, officers failed to act.

And when a summons eventually reached Miss U and Mr R called the council to say that had wrongly been served on her, as he owned the property, the city council officer failed to refer the case to a manager or consider that it might have been an error on the council’s part.

Upholding Mr R’s complaint, the ombudsman said: “I am satisfied the council’s actions caused him some distress in terms of uncertainty, a lack of clarity about liability for council tax from August 2017, along with some frustration.”

The ombudsman told the council they must apologise to him for wrongly changing liability to his lodgers, wrongly recording the contact address, failing to check ownership details, failing to act on returned post and not acting promptly when contacted.

The ombudsman also ordered a review of procedures.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We completely accept the ombudsman’s findings and therefore got in touch with Mr R to give him a full apology.

“We also carried out a thorough review of our procedures across this whole service and gave refresher training to all staff.

“This work was completed in January and ensures we’ve done everything possible to avoid these kinds of mistakes happening in the future.”

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