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Thousands in Norwich hit by council tax blunder

Court summonses sent out to 1,700 people in Norwich for non-payment of council tax had to be recalled because of a blunder, it has emerged.

A nix-up with the dates on a number of the court summonses meant they would not be valid for court so Norwich City Council bosses withdrew all of them.

Although they apologised for the mix-up, they said the people who were sent sunmonses did all owe the authority council - and 1,700 is the usual kind of number who receive a court summons.

They said those who have yet to settle their unpaid debt will be sent a new summons - which will be valid.

The error came to light at a meeting of Norwich City Council this week, when Samir Jeraj, deputy leader of the Green party, asked a question about the blunder.

He said: “It has come to my attention that the council recently incorrectly issued a large number of court summons for unpaid council tax.

“Can the executive member confirm how many residents are affected and what has been done to inform them of the mistake and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Alan Waters, cabinet member for resources, performance and shared services, said the summonses were not incorrectly issued, but a “technicality” with the dates meant they would not be valid in court.

He said: “A letter of apology was issued to everyone who received a summons as soon as was practically possible. 1,700 council tax accounts were affected.

“Since the issue was identified we have been working closely with our colleagues in Steria and Northgate. However, at this point in time the reason for the error has not been discovered so a solution has yet to be found.”
He added the people who had not paid off their debt would be sent a new summons, which would be valid in court.

Mr Waters also said members of the public who find themselves in financial trouble should call the National Debt line on 0808 808 4000.

He said Norwich City Council tenants should call a city council money advisor on 0344 980 3333.

After the meeting Katie Bayliss, a spokesman for Norwich City Council, said: “I can confirm that these summons did go out to the correct people for non-payment of council tax, but unfortunately, due to a technicality, some of the information on a small number of them was incorrect.

“We decided to recall all of the summons to double check that this issue did not affect everyone so that we were certain that the process was fair to all.

“We would like to reassure people living in the city that this is not something that has happened before, and we are working closely with our partners to investigate. We are confident that this is something that will not happen again.

“Many of those 1,700 people have now paid their council tax, and anyone that has not will be sent an updated summons. We take non-payment of council tax very seriously, and send a number of reminders to people to try and resolve the situation before resorting to a court summons.”

Most people pay their debt after receiving the summons - the most cases the council has had in court in one month is about 25 although it is often as low as three or four.

• Do you have a story about a blunder? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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