COUNCIL bosses have apologised to a Sheffield man after he received a summons for underpayment of council tax - which happened due to a mix-up in communication over his monthly instalments.
James Coupe, of Scarsdale Road, Woodseats, received an apology from Lee Adams, deputy chief executive, over his treatment.
He had set up direct debit with the council but his payments were too low and he had unwittingly run up a £31 debt.
Reminder letters were sent to him automatically but, because they were written by computer, they were not specific about his circumstances, and added that if payments were being made the letter should be ignored.
Mr Coupe said: “I thought that because I was making payments, I should ignore the letters. Then I received a summons. I found it confusing as well as extremely distressing as I thought I was up to date with my council tax payments.”
The council summonsed Mr Coupe not only for the £31 but for the remaining amont of council tax he was due to pay this year - £409, plus costs.
He was concerned the case could affect his credit rating.
Mr Coupe said after receiving the summons, he tried to contact the council to discuss his case but had trouble getting through and, when he left messages for officers to call him back, they failed to return his calls.
A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “We are sorry Mr Coupe was unable to understand the reminder letters sent to him when he underpaid his Council Tax.
“We do try to work with people who find they have difficulties with their payments or are unclear on any issues.
“However, we have a duty to collect the specified amounts that are needed to provide key services for the people of Sheffield.
“A direct phone line is given on the letters to assist anyone who is unclear about their content.
“He can pay his remaining tax by monthly instalments and we will cancel all costs associated with the summons.
“He does not need to attend Magistrates’ Court and his credit rating won’t be affected.”