Red-faced council officers have been forced to write to more than 110,000 confused residents to correct a mix-up on their recent council tax bills.
Letters were sent out to 111,142 homes in Walsall after a mistake was made in a previous letter about the amount of council tax levied by West Midlands Fire Service and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner. The fire service and civil defence portion of the bill is £35.91 while the police portion is £69.65. But the amounts were listed the wrong way round.
The mistake occurred when the borough’s council tax bills were first sent out to residents last month.
Walsall Council blamed human error for the mistake and said it was a legal requirement to send out fresh letters to inform taxpayers of the situation.
It also said the letter was posted along with a previously planned mail shot to promote its energy switching scheme and incurred ‘no extras cost’.
Council leader Mike Bird said: “This was an operational matter caused by human error by a member of staff. The figures were correct, but unfortunately were wrongly transposed on the council tax bills.
“As a result we have to correct the mistake, which is a legal requirement.
“The clarification letters were combined with leaflets to publicise our Big Community Switch fuel scheme.”
But the council’s deputy Labour opposition group leader, Councillor Sean Coughlan, criticised the decision to post the letters.
“It would be laughable, but right now this council is sacking care workers who look after the elderly and disabled as it finds £21 million in cuts, and the effect of those cuts on staff and their clients is far from funny.
“The council has a communications department that spends in excess of £600,000 a year.
“It could have saved £32,000 by just sending out a press release.
“I would like to know how this came about and how the council can justify this spend in the present circumstances of massive cuts in front line services,” Councillor Coughlan added.
In a response comment on social network Twitter, council spokeswoman Tina Faulkner tweeted: “The cost was £32,841 but we combined letters with a planned fuel switch mail shot so no extra cost.”