Monday, 10 December 2012

Lib Dems criticise council for over-aggressive council tax review

Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council have criticised the authority for the way that the current review of council tax single person discounts is being carried out. We believe that the firm doing the work - Capita - are being far too aggressive.

A person living on their own - or with no other adults liable to pay council tax - receives a 25% discount on their bills. It is entirely right that the council should be making sure that no one is receiving the discount who is not entitled to do so. But the way they carry out that work needs to be done in a sensible, and sensitive, manner.

Instead, Cornwall Council has employed Capita who are undertaking the work from Bromley in South East London. It's a shame that the council could not either do the work in house or find a Cornish firm to do so. It's thought that the total value of the contract could be around £100,000.

But Capita aren't being paid a flat fee. Their money comes in the form of a bounty for every person they find who is receiving the discount but not entitled to it - a sort of 'no win, no fee' arrangement. The trouble is that this could lead to Capita being over aggressive in their work and potentially reporting people as not being entitled to the discount when they are.

We're also concerned that recipients need to send back a letter confirming their eligibility - including paying for the stamp - and there appears to be no email or telephone option. We believe that, in order to maximise the return, the council should have ensured that replying was made as easy as possible. We want to know what will happen in the case of people who do not reply. Will they automatically lose their discount?

On Friday, Lib Dem group leader Jeremy Rowe and myself made the point to Cornwall's chief executive Kevin Lavery, asking him to make sure that the discount review was handled sensitively. We also asked for him to ensure that Capita would be penalised if they took people off the discount list when they were entitled to receive it.

Credit should also go to my colleague Rob Nolan who has done a lot of work investigating the issue.

1 comment:

David said...

Thanks for raising this Alex.