Anger over council’s debt collection tactics
Labour-led group accused of helping out Tories
A Vale councillor has accused the council of launching a “witch hunt” against residents claiming benefits.
Jim Bollan has hit out at West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) for using private company CapacityGrid to chase after members of the public for council tax overpayments and fraud.
He claims letters which have been sent out to residents are “amateurish” and at first glance look like scam mail.
The local authority has since revealed it was one of 12 UK councils selected to take part in a government-funded pilot project which used the firm to reduce fraud and error within council tax claims.
The Leven councillor for the Scottish Socialist Party said: “This is a snoopers’ charter allowing this company to prey on the poor and those with low incomes.
“People on these benefits are being asked to provide personal bank details and other private information to this company based near Burnley in an industrial estate with only a PO box address.
“This creeping privatisation is akin to using sheriff ’s officers to pry into people’s affairs whose only ‘crime’ is to possibly have been overpaid housing or council tax benefit which may have been the fault of the council in the first place.”
A member of the public sent Mr Bollan a copy of the letter they received from CapacityGrid which states they have been overpaid by nearly £800 in housing benefit.
According to the firm’s website, CapacityGrid are dedicated to helping councils achieve the “best operational return”. It boasts: “For every 182 council tax reduction cases identified by CapacityGrid’s Fraud & Error Reviews Service, with an average value of £550 per claim, your council could save £100,000!
“Our Fraud & Error Reviews Service is on track to achieve £2.5million of savings by June 2016 for a consortium of 12 local authorities since it went live in early 2015.”
A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson said: “West Dunbartonshire was one of 12 UK councils selected to take part in a pilot project fully funded by the UK Government which used CapacityGrid to analyse data in an effort to reduce fraud and error within council tax claims.
“The information was referred back to the council for any required action. Now that the pilot is at an end, this responsibility will be undertaken by council staff.”
Councillor Bollan said: “It is extremely worrying that the Labour Party who run WDC have been caught in bed again with David Cameron’s Tories by participating in this witch hunt of people on benefits.
“Labour fell over themselves to help the Tories introduce Universal Credit in West Dunbartonshire. Now their participation in this snoopers’ charter all but confirms they are Red Tories.”