Council forced to apologise over letter

Dumfries and Galloway Council have been forced to apologise to 3500 single people in the region after a letter send out on their behalf suggested residents living alone might lose their council tax single person discount.

James Paxton for Kirkcowan said he was shocked by the wording of the letter, which came from a third party, phrases like “there is activity at your address other than yourself” suggested he was not living alone. He was also concerned that the third party had provided the council with “records such as financial, credit and other data sources including the electoral roll and telephone directory to securely combat fraud”.

If the recipient of the letter did not respond with 21 days they were told they would lose their 25 per cent discount and the letter also warned that giving false information could lead to fines.

By Tuesday this week, a council statement took a more conciliatory tone, saying: “Dumfries and Galloway Council has apologised to recipients of a letter that was sent to some householders in the region.

“The letter was sent to individuals who currently claim council tax single person discount. The council has a statutory obligation to review its council tax benefits. This includes single person discount. To do this, the council engaged a third party company to help carry out the review due to the volume of work that is involved. This is all carried out in adherence with the Data Protection Act. This is common practice and happens in other councils also.

“The letter contained some unfortunate language. The council has recognised that this may cause distress to some individuals. As such, it will be writing to all recipients of the letter to apologise.

Alex Haswell, Director of Chief Executive Services, said “Approximately 3,500 letters were sent to people in our region. We understand that this letter may have caused upset to some people. For that we apologise. Clearly, this is not the way in which our council conducts its business. We are writing to all those who have received the letter apologise in writing and to explain why we are carrying out the review and the process we are following. We will be looking into this issue to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council currently pays out approximately £3 Million in Council Tax Single Person Discount. This review is to make sure that only those who are entitled to it are receiving the discount.