‘It's about doing the right thing’ - councillor in deprived Wellingborough ward calls for immediate help for residents after error
Cllr Matt Binley says people might be left unable to buy food over the weekend
A Conservative councillor in a 'left behind' area of Wellingborough says that anyone who needs money after council tax was taken in error should be given cash by North Northamptonshire Council to tide them over.
NNC announced last night that council tax payments would be taken today (Thursday), four days early, from people living in the former Wellingborough borough following an administrative error.
This newspaper has today asked exactly how many people are affected but has not yet received a reply from NNC.
People have a legal right to reverse direct debit payments if they contact their bank, but if the process isn't carried out on the same day as the payment was made, it can take some time to get the money back.
Cllr Matt Binley of the deprived Brickhill and Queensway ward, one of the Government's 'left behind' areas, is concerned that some of his residents may not realise what has happened until they try to take money out of their account, leaving them short of cash over the next three days.
He says the council should pay back the money to anyone who needs it.
"Queensway is one of the left behind areas and of course everbody is going to feel it but in this area people may feel it more than anybody else," he said.
"It's awful when you've got the direct debits coming out and you're living from week to week, from one paycheck to the next. Those people will be looking at this today and be worried about bank charges and other sorts of issues because it may have taken money out that they had budgeted for a food shop or for petrol over the weekend.
"We can't reverse this, the toothpaste can't go back into the tube, and we know that the leadership have said that they will cover bank charges.
"But they need to make sure that everyone who needs it has money to get them through the next few days.
"I think they should send the money straight back to people who need it through BACS or CHAPS, which is faster. We still have another day before the weekend and we can act.
"We should then take the correct payment next week sometime.
"I think that would be the better way. To ensure people have some money to tide them over.
"I know this might have an impact on workloads and financial implications but that's our problem. It's about putting things right, doing the right thing.
"We have to make sure those most in need have what they need."
This is the second council tax error this week. On Monday it was revealed that 800 Corby residents had been sent court summonses for bills they had already paid.
"At this stage we don't know whether this was a mistake or what has happened but there absolutely needs to be an investigation," added Cllr Binley.
"In this day and age we do very much live in a blame culture where people who make mistakes are asked to resign but I'd be a fine one to criticise somebody who had done so. We're human beings, we understand these things happen, but that's why we must ensure it's fully investigated to find out where the mistake has been made so we can put in a fix to ensure it doesn't happen again."
"I know the contact centre in Wellingborough have worked very hard in the past to make sure as much as possible can be done online so that they can be speaking to those who really need a conversation.
"They're the ones who often know first that something's going wrong so we must ensure that they have the capacity to report what's going on and act quickly.
"The payment process should be automated and if it isn't, there needs to be a checking process in place to make sure."
Anybody who is having issues caused by the council error should visit the dedicated web page to reclaim any bank charges