Pensioner’s anger over council bills – for 4p debt!

A pensioner has accused Town Hall chiefs of penny-pinching – after being told he owed them 4p!

Les Clark, 67, of Rembrandt Avenue, South Shields, was stunned to receive two letters informing him South Tyneside Council have overpaid him the meagre amount – and said the cost of sending out the letters would have dwarfed the amount Town Hall officials planned to recoup.

And he is baffled after he received no apology for the issue of the letters, which outlined overpayment of housing benefit and council tax support.

But a spokesman for South Tyneside Council responded by saying the authority had a “legal obligation” to inform customers of such changes -– no matter how small the difference.

Mr Clark said:

“I have been a tenant of South Tyneside Council for over 40 years and I thought I had seen all aspects of ‘council mentality’ until I recently received two letters from them.

“One of three pages of A4 informed me I had been overpaid council tax support and that I owed them money because of it, and the second consisted of two pages of A4 telling me I had been overpaid housing benefit and that I owed them money for that.

“A phone query to them found this was due to their miscalculation earlier in the year and that these outstanding amounts had just come to light.

“No hint of apology for their mistake, just typical forceful council letters, which left you in no doubt that failing to repay this amount would lead to nasty things happening.

“The amount total for the two letters was 4p. The cost involved in producing all the paperwork and delivering it to my door, incalculable, but the experience was priceless.”

Mr Clark received both of the letters, which had been sent by second class post, informing him he had been overpaid by 3p on his council tax support and 1p on his housing benefit

However, he hasn’t been billed for the overpayments, and adjustments have automatically been to cover the new costs in the future.

A council spokesman said:

“Mr Clark received a letter advising him of changes to his council tax following a recalculation of his council tax support and housing benefit entitlement.

“The council must by law inform customers in writing of any changes to the support they receive or instalments to the council, no matter how small the difference.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 02 Jan 2015



  1. loobitzh

    Reblogged this on Lindas Blog and commented:
    Im surprised they didnt send in the bayliffs!!!

    This reminds me of rebate I was informed of for council tax. They wrote to me telling me of an overpayment which equalled x amount. However they did not tell me that in order to get the overpayment back (It was I who had paid too much), I would have to ask for it to be payed back. I waited for weeks, expecting it to appear in my bank account. In the end I went into the council offices and asked about the rebate.

    When I asked why I had not received the rebate. They told me it was because I had not asked for it.

    They then told me that the amount was in reality about half the amount which had been printed on the letter informing me I was due an overpayment.

    When I asked why this was they told me it was because the calculation did not include any benefits which applied.

    When I asked why this was not explained to me in the letter….
    They said that due to the cuts, it was cheaper to send out standard letters, and letters with more detail on them were not cost effective. Ie they could not afford to have someone type in the details.

    I also noticed these letters were no longer signed by a person, just a position.

    So this is the ‘efficiency savings cuts’ to our services.

    If I were not so careful with my finances, I might have gone out and spent the rebate only to find out later that the real rebate was only half of the figure they gave me.

    a mini moan – but like the blogger below, I doubt I am alone.

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