Council’s letter of apology over liability orders

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LETTERS of apology have been sent to 5,000 Sheffield residents who received court summonses in a bungled crackdown on non-payment of council tax a month ago.

The Star reported in February how hundreds of worried people descended on Sheffield Magistrates’ Court after being sent letters telling them they had just hours to pay up - or appear before officials at court.

Many of those sent summonses included students - ineligible for council tax in the first place - and householders who insist their council tax payments are up to date.

The Star spoke to dozens of residents on the day of the fiasco, many were positive they did not owe a penny.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance, demanded an inquiry from contractor Capita.

Today he told The Star: “As part of this review, a letter of apology has been sent from Capita on behalf of the council tax service to all customers who received a liability order.”

But he insisted the letters had not been not sent in error - and claimed he knew of only one example from the 5,000 where the court summons had been issued incorrectly.

Coun Lodge claimed: “Most cases were where council tax was owed, or students had not filled in exemption forms.

“I had just one case brought to my attention where the resident should not have received a summons.

“They were students who had sent back their exemption form, and it had not been picked up by our contractor, Capita.

“I asked anyone who felt they had received the summons incorrectly to come forward but nobody else has.”

Coun Lodge added: “Capita has reviewed the issues relating to the delay in taxpayers receiving the summonses.

“Acknowledging the delay may have resulted in some taxpayers facing liability orders, Capita has initiated a period of grace, extending the time to clear accounts by two weeks.

“Many customers have taken advantage of this.”