Brighton and Hove City Council’s poor services are again highlighted.
I am often approached to advise and assist with housing and council tax problems facing local people.
In the space of two days last week I began the process of taking on two cases that highlight the need to reform the way in which BHCC provides information that is complex, sometimes contradictory and often the source of enormous stress and heartache.
Also it involves so many documents that it is impossible for any normal person to understand the essence of what they are being informed about.
My experience leads me to ask the question;
Is the BHCC Housing Department, particularly those sections dealing with Council Tax and Housing Benefit, fit for purpose?
A single person sacked unfairly, who has worked all her life, and had to “sign on” then took a ‘zero hours’ contract of employment but, after less than 3 months, had to return to JSA.
BHCC sent her 48 items of correspondence related to Council Tax and Housing Benefit in less than three months.
These included a demand for CT amounting to £900.00 and a summons for payment of £850.00 + £100.00 court costs.
On one day she received 10 items of correspondence related to Council Tax. Information provided to the council is ignored and correspondence not replied to.
A single parent who works full time (on around the minimum wage) and looks after 2 teenage sons but who suffered ill health earlier this year.
One son has now left to join the Army. In one day she received 29 items of correspondence detailing rent and Council Tax demands.
A demand was received for £1,230.00 in CT followed by a requirement to pay nearly £300.00 per month to the Council.
This has since been reduced to £130.00 of which £48.00 is taken directly from (the soon to be abolished) tax credits.
One 4 page letter dated 2 days before the 29 items appeared listed 44 different overpayments from September 2013 to September 2015 and claimed repayment of over £4,000.00.
This relates not to a scrounger or a fraudster but a hard working mum who is baffled by the bumf from BHCC.
We need to ensure that our City Council serves the citizens of our city and treats people in a civilised and respectful manner and that officers do not act as apparatchiks of an unfeeling and dictatorial state.
Councillors must insist that council officers act in a way that reflects the ethics and philosophy of our elected representatives and follow policies decided locally rather than those dictated by national government.