London Borough of Barnet (21 017 371)

Category : Benefits and tax > Council tax

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 28 Mar 2023


Key to names used

  • Ms B The complainant
  • Mr C The complainant’s father


Ms B complained about how the Council dealt with her council tax for 2019/20. She said it wrongly closed one account and opened a new one, then took 10 months to identify the error and correct it. In the meantime, it sent four bills showing the account was in credit and saying that she could get a refund. It reissued the correct bill in March 2020 demanding payment in full within weeks, wrongly obtained a liability order and referred the debt to bailiffs, who traced the account to the wrong address. It also delayed in sending complaint responses, sent them by email rather than post and did not answer all of Ms B’s points.She was caused significant confusion, distress and time and trouble in trying to understand her account.


Fault found causing injustice and recommendations made.


The Council must consider the report and confirm within three months the action it has taken or proposes to take. The Council should consider the report at its full Council, Cabinet or other appropriately delegated committee of elected members and we will require evidence of this. (Local Government Act 1974, section 31(2), as amended)

To remedy the injustice caused, we recommend, within three months of the date of this report, the Council:

  • apologises to Ms B and pays her £334 (which can be used to clear the remaining council tax balance with Ms B’s permission);

  • takes steps to ensure all future communication with Ms B is by letter sent through the post;

  • reviews the content of its council tax bills to include a clear explanation of when apparent credits of council tax support are not refundable and to remind staff to apply a ‘bill inhibit’ for one month;

  • reviews its communication policy to ensure those people who cannot or do not want to communicate by digital means, are able to access Council services and communication; and

  • provides training to staff on complaint handling to ensure our principles of good practice are implemented.

The Council has accepted these recommendations.

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