Anger over coun­cil’s debt col­lec­tion tac­tics

Labour-led group ac­cused of help­ing out Tories

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Jenny Foulds

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.”

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