Nearly 2,000 households in Northampton receive incorrect council tax rebate letters following costly WNC error

West Northamptonshire Council admits mistake that led public to believe rebate was a scam

By Logan MacLeod
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 9:06 am

Nearly 2,000 Northampton households have been affected by incorrect tax rebate letters sent to them by the council.

In February, Rishi Sunak announced a £150 Council Tax rebate to help households facing rising energy bills.

On Friday (June 10), around 1,650 Northampton residents received letters to apply for the rebate. The letter gives you a link to a website and a unique passcode. Recipients need to complete the application and upload a recent bank statement.

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Photo Illustration by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

However, West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has admitted that it attached the wrong names to the addresses, which left residents in doubt and believing it was a scam.

A WNC spokesperson said: “Regrettably, an administrative error meant some residents received letters with the wrong name. These letters were to people who pay council tax via direct debit, but as part of standard checks required before the £150 fuel rebate payment could be made, their details needed to be confirmed.

"New letters have now been issued and we apologise for any concern caused. The error applied to approximately one per cent of the total number of council tax payers across the area.”

An explanation from a WNC officer, as seen by this newspaper, said the council believed about 1,650 properties were affected. And, according to WNC, it has cost nearly £2,000 to resend the letters.

Julie Davenport

Independent councillor Julie Davenport, of the Far Cotton ward, said it caused a lot of concern in her area.

She said: "It caused quite a lot of concern with residents because they thought it could be a scam.

"The letters were black and white photocopied letters instead of the letterhead with the colour of West Northants. Then it had the wrong name on. Residents were concerned as to what was going on and who's got their letter.

"It just seems to be quite difficult for the council to diversify into certain things. WNC is so used to taking money from people but when it comes to paying it out there seems to be a lot of problems."

The letter send out to more than one thousand households.

Labour councillor Emma Roberts, of the Delapre and Rushmere ward, said: "I thought the look and feel of letter were odd, people were really worried when they received it.

"Communication should have been much better and I have asked for a full understanding of how it happened.

"Things like this don’t help those who need this rebate to get it sooner and it does nothing for confidence."

Now, the 1,650 households must wait for new letters in the post with the correct details on to begin their application, leading to further frustration.

Councillor Davenport said: "I don't know how long it's going to be until some people get their money. They are not happy but there's not a lot they can do.

"It's reputational damage for WNC. This is just another negative. The public say, 'they can take our money but when it comes to giving it to us, it all becomes very complex', 'they're just like the other council, nothing's changed'.

"There needs to be better planning. WNC need to make sure it's prepared for the next time government releases funds."